The GOP might learn from climate change

The US Republicans have the problem of comprising lots of angry, dim, religiose and mean white people. Well, that’s not fair, but it’s the perception that’s holding them back.  So how come I see great hope in the climate change which seems like it’s beginning to bite in the US? The answers have been pointed-at in a brilliant piece by Camilla Cavendish in The Times (8 November 2012, “Sober suits know better than bearded greens”.) 

It mattered that the very rich, erstwhile Republican Michael Bloomberg declared that climate change needed a response and that he, as Mayor of New York, tended toward Barak Obama as the likelier candidate to grasp the fact. Never mind that such remarks may help Mr Bloomberg politically, it matters that someone of his stamp start to steer Republicans away from committed irrationality. Ms Cavendish didn’t make that point, but she did note that a carbon tax was gaining support across the left and right of American economists and that it might help sort out the country’s fiscal problems, the importance of which also seizes sensible people across the divide.

Ms Cavendish did not point out that it is difficult to see how any tolerable level of tax, in one rich country (however big), would seriously address the global phenomenon of high greenhouse gas emissions, but that nuance is for another day.

The underlying politics seems clear. The US right is in a mess and will need to attract the young as soon as possible. I think that there is a very good chance that broadly right-wing arguments will appeal to the next generation of voters and think that (for instance) David Cameron has been right to see that homosexuality (and homosexuality much more than abortion) is not something the young disapprove of. I think that climate change is another such argument: the young may not be green, and they may not want their travel plans curtailed, but they are not immune to the idea that greenhouse gases may be a problem.

The right can get hold of such across-the-board themes and show themselves ordinarily modern in thinking about them. The caveat – apropos a very good piece by Anne Applebaum in The Telegraph (8 November 2012, “It’s time for a Republican Party clear-out”) –  is that there really is a Neanderthal right and it really does matter and does have genuine concerns and in the US as in the UK is a little suicidal. The Tea Party and UKIP don’t mind sinking the right as a mainstream electoral force. But that, too, is a worry for another day.

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Publication date

08 November 2012