We’ve seen how GOP conservatives want to cleanse their party of moderates — see “Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 1: Conservatives vow to purge all members who support clean energy or science-based policy.” Even Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), an American Conservative Union “Senate Standout,” among the 20 most conservative U.S. Senators in 2008, is being attacked for even daring to engage in bipartisan efforts to solve our climate and energy security problem (see Teabaggers try to “flush” Graham out of GOP, calling him “traitor” and “RINO” and “wussypants, girly-man, half-a-sissy”; Graham responds, “We’re not going to be the party of angry white guys”).
Well, Senator, not only does Glenn Beck say “I’m going to stick with the angry people,” Mike Pence, chair of House GOP Conference, sides with Beck (see here).
If you need further proof that there’s a growing purity test for GOP nominees for national office, that the angry people are taking over the party, consider this bombshell from New York:
A moderate Republican whose candidacy for an upstate New York Congressional seat had set off a storm of national conservative opposition, abruptly withdrew on Saturday, emboldening the right at a time when the Republican Party is enmeshed in a debate over how to rebuild itself.
The candidate, Dede Scozzafava, said she was suspending her campaign in the face of collapsing support and evidence that she was heading for a loss in a three-way race on Tuesday involving Douglas L. Hoffman, running on the Conservative Party line, and Bill Owens, a Democrat.
As TP reports, “big tent” and “establishment” Republicans — such as Gingrich, the RNC, and the NRCC — backed Scozzafava whereas “purists” — such as Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and Bill Kristol — backed Hoffman.
What test did Scozzafava fail:
Ms. Scozzafava had been under siege from conservative leaders because she supports gay rights and abortion rights and was considered too liberal on various fiscal issues.
Hoffman, on the other hand, is one angry guy, as this New York Post op-ed he wrote last week makes clear:
Taxes, the deficit, red tape, and regulation are breaking the back of the nation, mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.
Americans have had enough and are vocalizing their anger in town hall meetings and on the streets of Washington. They are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore!
That’s why I am running. I am one of them!
Yes, he’s one of the angry few.
This is the political story of the week with huge implications for climate action and the entire progressive agenda. In the very short term, it may make it difficult for some “moderate” Republicans to engage in a serious bipartisan effort to preserve a livable climate and end our dependence on oil (see “Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 3: RNC Chair Steele withdraws support for Rep. Kirk over his vote on climate and clean energy bill“).
The pressure on Lindsey Graham will no doubt continue to be enormous, though at least in his case he’s not up for reelection until 2014. Fortunately the few remaining moderate environmental voices in the Republican Party are speaking out for him (see here). If you want to thank Lindsey Graham for reaching across the aisle to address the climate problem (click here).
In the medium term, however, the GOP’s internecine warfare is almost certainly a good thing for progressives, as even Newt Gingrich understands:
Yet other prominent Republicans expressed concern that Ms. Scozzafava’s decision seemed likely to unsettle the party going into next year’s midterm elections, raising the prospect of more primaries against Republican candidates that they deem too moderate. Party leaders — including Mr. Steele and Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker — had argued that local parties should be permitted to pick candidates that most closely mirror the sentiments of the district, even if those candidates vary from Republican orthodoxy on some issues.
“This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this: If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we’ll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama’s re-election,” said Mr. Gingrich, who had endorsed Ms. Scozzafava.
“I felt very deeply that when you have all 11 county chairman voting for someone, that it wasn’t appropriate for me to come in and render my judgment,” he said. “I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices.”
Ms. Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman and former small-town mayor, was nominated this summer by Republican county leaders who quickly found their choice second-guessed by the party’s conservative wing. Many officials in the district, a vast expanse from the Vermont border through the Adirondacks to Lake Ontario, were deeply resentful of the outside involvement.
“They’re trying to bang 435 elections across the United States into the same mold,” said James Ellis, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. “It’s a detriment to democracy.”
Yes, it’s true, that the effort by Rahm Emanuel and other Democratic leaders to build up a working majority by reaching out to moderate candidates means that progressives don’t always get precisely the legislation they’d write by themselves. But the point is, without a working majority, you don’t get to write legislation at all, and you’d certainly never end up with the biggest increase in clean energy funding in U.S. history — bigger than all of the previous increases combined.
If Obama is a two-term president and we can maintain working majorities throughout both terms — then we have a serious chance of making the transition to a clean energy economy and averting catastrophic global warming. Thanks to the angry conservatives, that outcome just became a bit more likely.