Green movement’s biggest error: underestimating right wing extremism
When I wrote about the anti-science insanity in the political Right and the false statement that the Left is just as bad, I did not really look forward to drag out the subject. As it turns out, however, some of the comments and related posts made me think that the issue needed to be explored further. Here is some more evidence of the asymmetry between the two sides: we are told that inaction on climate change “is the environmentalists’ fault” because, guess what, the failed to see how insane those on the Right were.
A Harvard academic has put the blame squarely for America’s failure to act on climate change on environmental groups. She also argues that there is little prospect Barack Obama will put climate change on the top of his agenda in his second term.
In a research paper, due to be presented at a Harvard forum next month, scholar Theda Skocpol in effect accuses the DC-based environmental groups of political malpractice, saying they were blind to extreme Republican opposition to their efforts.
But wasn’t it always like that?
The biggest mistake of the environmental groups, Skocpol said, was their failure to appreciate the extreme polarisation of Congress since the mid-90s, or fully appreciate that Republicans in Congress were softening in their support for environmental issues from 2007 – even before the emergence of the Tea Party.
A number of prominent Republicans who had support climate legislation had already turned away by 2007 – not least John McCain, who was Obama’s opponent in 2008. McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-president, who is famous for her “drill, baby, drill” comments, should have alerted environmental groups to changing politics around the environment, Skocpol writes.
The writing was on the wall even more starkly after 2010, when a number of Republicans who had previously compromised on environmental issues were defeated by more conservative primary challengers, and by the stunning wins for Tea Party-supported candidates in the congressional elections.
This analysis sounds unfair in placing the blame. If victims of extremism were not vigilant enough, why should they be the only ones getting the blame? Why isn’t any of it going to the extremists? Still, the picture seems to be clear: extremism and denial of science are most significant on one end of the political spectrum, not on both.