Tuesday, June 22, 2021

GUEST COLUMN: The conservative case for climate advocacy

December 11, 2020
Illustration by Daena Faustino.
Illustration by Daena Faustino. —

By Tony Maurer, Michigan State freshman studying constitutional law and political theory.

As the United States begins to recover from one of the most competitive elections in its history, we have been reminded that many elections are decided by thousands of votes, not millions. When margins in many key states are small, it is imperative that the Republican Party look into why the ballots were cast the way they were.

Republicans entered the election season more trusted than the Democratic Party in handling the economy; however, Democrats were far more trusted in environmental issues. In battleground states like Michigan, messaging on every issue is extremely important, but only a few Republicans chose to include a conservative solution to climate change in their messaging.

A recent national survey showed that 88% of voters and 93% of Michigan voters say that they approve of the government taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy, so the Republicans’ silence on this issue has been deafening. Afraid to alienate their base, Republicans have long denied the science of climate change, but as it has become clearer that long-term changes to the earth’s average temperature are occurring, the American people have begun to look to the government to propose solutions. Conservatives do not need to violate their principles in order to propose solutions to this crisis. By cutting taxes for companies investing in green energy and deregulating these markets, we can use the United States’ market-based economy to encourage new and exciting solutions to solve climate change.

One of the young Republicans that ran under this platform was Peter Meijer, representative-elect of Michigan’s third congressional district. Peter ran in an open district after the retirement of Congressman Justin Amash. He faced a stiff challenge from Democrat opponent Hillary Scholten, who received millions of dollars in help from Democratic super PACs that saw this seat as one of the largest Democratic pickup opportunities in the entire country. However, Peter Meijer was able to win election in a state that saw Donald Trump lose by 146,000 votes, and Senate candidate John James lose by 92,000.

Despite Democratic enthusiasm to “flip the third,” Peter Meijer was able to hold on to a narrow victory and hold a Republican district that has been shifting left in recent years. However, it is no mistake that he was able to hold off the progressive tides in the district as his approach differed drastically from other candidates campaigning in Michigan. During Peter’s debate with Hillary Scholten, he immediately referred to the need for a strong market solution to climate change, which varied greatly from John James’ tactic of labeling Senator Gary Peters as a “do nothing Senator '' and Donald Trump’s referral to global warming as a “Chinese hoax.”

While John James may hold a very similar stance on climate change, he failed to campaign on it significantly and as a result many Michiganders never knew what his position on climate change truly was. With that oversight with his messaging, there came electoral costs, as 71% of Michigan voters said that they are more likely to support a GOP candidate who embraces an innovation-based approach to climate change according to the same aforementioned survey. By improving his messaging on climate change, James very well could have overcome his 92,000 vote deficit and won the Michigan Senate seat from Senator Peters.

Politics is the game of expanding your electorate, so it should come as no surprise that Peter Meijer broadening his appeal on climate propelled him to victory and Donald Trump’s comments on climate closed him off from possible voters that could have aided in his reelection. If the 2020 election showed anything about Michigan voters, it’s that Republicans must attack issues like climate change while still acting in a principled conservative manner. Climate change in the 2020 election showed a tale of three conservatives: one who takes a stand to find solutions to the world's most pressing issues, one who did not message his solutions, and one who declined to acknowledge the issue in the first place. While each of these races had much more than just climate change on the ballot, Republicans’ mandate has become clear-- we must utilize the United States’ market economy to create new technologies to fight climate change.

Discussion

Share and discuss “GUEST COLUMN: The conservative case for climate advocacy” on social media.