Newt Gingrich is supposed to be the intellectual leader of the conservative movement. Yet his fellow conservatives were completely uninterested in following his lead away from denying climate science and towards climate solutions.
In fact, today’s conservatives are more wedded to the notion of global warming as a hoax than ever before — so much so that, as The Atlantic’s Chris Good reports, every serious Republican Party presidential contender is having to renounce past support for capping carbon emissions.
Gingrich was arguably the first prominent conservative who had previously denied climate science, to then shift emphasis and promote action on climate change.
He did it without disowning his past rejection of science, but that’s what made him different than other Republicans who had lent support for “cap-and-trade” policies (before Barack Obama became President).
Gingrich was signaling to his fellow conservatives: We don’t have to commit political suicide by denying science to oppose liberal environmental policies. We can offer conservative environmental policies, and debate the role of government, instead of debating established science.
He tried to bring conservatives along by holding a public debate with Sen. John Kerry in 2007 and then shooting an ad for Al Gore’s climate protection group with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2008. He even made the environment a central focus of his 2011 address to the CPAC convention.
Yet despite his long record of fiercely fighting for conservative causes, he has brought himself nothing but scorn from his fellow conservatives.
His failure is reflected in his own shifting positions. In February 2007 he explicitly endorsed a “cap-and-trade” system. In the April 2007 debate with Sen. Kerry he only supported a more limited system of tax credits. By 2008, he gave up the climate focus and launched the “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.” campaign. And once President Obama was elected, he slammed cap-and-trade as an “energy tax.” in his CPAC speech this year, he only promoted nuclear power as a means of cutting carbon, while incongruously saying “what is going to matter the most is oil, gas, coal, and nuclear.”
The point is that modern conservatism is so deeply uninterested in offering plausible policy solutions, and so deeply wedded to misinformation from its media barons, that it won’t even take seriously the policy proposals to solve major problems from its top leaders.
Instead, its top leaders are being dragged down into the swamp of willful ignorance.