Newt Goes Green
If any of you are lucky enough to be on Newt Gingrich's email list, you may have read his latest missive: "We Can Have Green Conservatism -- And We Should." In which the former Speaker announces that "the time has come for the development of Green Conservatism as an alternative to big bureaucracy and big litigation liberal environmentalism."
Now, Newt hasn't been making a lot of sense
lately, but the basic point here is fairly clear: Gingrich, as political operatives are wont to do, is trying to develop a communication strategy to deal with a serious policy issue that's hurting his side in the polls. Take this paragraph:
For example, former Vice President Al Gore suggests that global warming is so bad that we could have a 20-foot rise in the oceans in the near future. No responsible scientist anywhere believes that to be true. But if the debate becomes, "Al Gore cares about the earth, and we're against Al Gore," we end up in a defensive position where the average American could end up perceiving conservatives as always being negative about the environment.
What a fuzzy bundle of conservative climate change-related pathologies! Newt's use of Al Gore, Strawman is textbook, as is his misleading opposition of the scientific consensus to that favorite denialist talking point, the 20-foot rise claim. Yet Gingrich seems concerned that demonizing Gore, as much fun as it is, may be counterproductive in the long run.
Far be it from me to doubt Newt's sincere commitment to safeguarding "the health of our planet," but his list of Green Conservatism's "basic values" isn't exactly dripping with substance:
- Green Conservatism favors clean air and clean water.
- Green Conservatism understands biodiversity as a positive good.
- Green Conservatism favors minimizing carbon loading in the atmosphere as a positive public value.
- Green Conservatism is pro-science, pro-technology and pro-innovation.
- Green Conservatism believes that green prosperity and green development are integral to the successful future of the human race.
- Green Conservatism believes that economic growth and environmental health are compatible in both the developed and developing world.
- Green Conservatism believes that we can realize more positive environmental outcomes faster by shifting tax code incentives and shifting market behavior than is possible from litigation and regulation.
Only the last point seems to mean anything beyond vague watery evironmentalisticallism. But what does it add up to? So far, only two things: cash prizes "as a competitive alternative to the current peer-reviewed process of scientific research," and carbon tax credits. Want more? You'll have to wait.
Newt is a master of political language, and that appears to be mostly what his "Green Conservatism" is all about: language to win political battles as a substitute for actual policy strategy. He even insists that Green Conservatism talk of "conservation," not "environmentalism." We're promised much more to come on this subject. Though at such an inefficient rate of rhetoric to actual ideas, I think it might be more conservationist for Newt to just leave it alone.
Labels: environment, global warming, Newt Gingrich