One should never expect anything other than slanted platitudes in political convention speeches. So, as I sat in the Tampa Bay Times Forum last week, I didnt expect any speaker to come within a hurricanes outer band reach of the topic of climate change.
Tampa was my second Republican National Convention. It was more sedate than the 2008 St. Paul event, which might easily be attributable to 100 percent humidity and 95 degree temperatures. Or, to the onerous security and gulag-like fencing that kept greater Tampa off limits for delegates. The truth more likely lies in the fact that the once great GOP tent appeared to be the size of a pup tent this go-around.
Despite the convention stage management intended to send out good vibes to women, Hispanics, African Americans, and labor, the words fell mainly upon the approving nods of older, white males on the convention floor. The only special interest group that appeared to make its cause known inside the Forum was the Paulistas.
As the leader of the national grassroots organization of Republicans who care about conservation issues ConservAmerica Ive grown too accustomed to networking along the fringes of these gatherings. Even though we believe nothing is more conservative than conservation, we find ourselves in league with representatives of other groups that have been shunted out of the GOPs big tent, like Republican Majority for Choice and Log Cabin Republicans.
It is those quiet conversations with delegates and behind-the-scenes power brokers in hotel bars, coffee kiosks, and in the mens room of the convention hall that provide clarity to the state of the American political system. Time and again, people would approach me and ask, Youre the guy from the Republican environmental group, arent you?
Id smile and say, Yes, I am, and wait for an ill informed dress down. But that didnt happen. What did happen was illuminating and encouraging. Throughout the convention, people little known delegates from Iowa to well known governors told me the same thing. Weve just got to get better on conservation issues, especially climate change, if we want to remain the majority party.
Many western delegates told me very personal stories about how fossil fuel interests had ruined some of Americas great landscapes in their home states. Iowans talked about the thousands of new jobs created by wind energy companies in the Hawkeye state, and how wind was so complementary to the agricultural industry.
Almost universally, these delegates talked about their hope that America would take the lead on addressing climate change and, in the process, create a vibrant new economy for their children and grandchildren to work in.
Id ask each person the same question. Why do you think our candidates arent talking about climate change or clean energy? Again, the answer was nearly unanimous.
The big money in Republican politics comes from the fossil fuel industry. Individual donors dont count anymore. Politicians will do or say anything to keep the money flowing to the super PACs aligned with their candidacies. Often shared in a careful whisper, many delegates would add, Citizens United buried democracy.
So, when Governor Romney suggested in his acceptance speech that Obama was wrong to worry about rising oceans, he was speaking to the super PAC donors who are pouring millions into the uncoordinated effort to elect him president.
Mitt Romney is a man of deep faith with a keen eye for facts. His environmental record as governor of Massachusetts is superior to that of Barack Obamas as president. For Republicans like me, with their nose peering longingly into the tent, faith that President Romney will govern in the best interests of all Americans, and not just the super PAC donors, sustains us.
The fact you may think Im delusional is the problem with big money.
© Copyright 2012 Robert Sisson, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Sisson is president of Conserv-America, a national grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the GOPs great conservation tradition. Reach him firstname.lastname@example.org.