by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund, Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 11:42:04 AM EDT
Chock up another win for the radical. Tea Party darling Ted Cruz trounced conservative David Dewhurst in the Republican runoff for the Texas senate seat on Tuesday night. How did a first-time candidate with so little name recognition pull off a 14-point victory over a GOP favorite?
Sheer stubbornness. Cruz and Dewhurst share many conservative beliefs, but Cruz set himself apart by accusing Dewhurst of what the Tea Party has turned into a political sin: compromise.
Cruz loves to criticize others for being too quick to compromise - but isn’t that part of effective governing? This refusal to reach agreement with other members of Congress earned him the support of Sarah Palin, Tim DeMint, and other Tea Party kingmakers.
Other candidates have used a similar brand of obstinacy to beat GOP conservatives in Indiana, Nebraska, and Delaware. This rise in extremism may excite far-right voters, but it doesn’t bode well for nation as a whole. We are facing frightening challenges, from financial turmoil to climate change. If elected officials refuse to talk with their colleagues about how to solve these problems, America won’t be able to move forward.
It’s quite simple really. When my son and daughter squabble with each other or run into trouble on the playground, I tell them to try to work it out amongst themselves first. If every parent knows the value of give and take, why don’t more Tea Party politicians?
In the absence of conversation, we end up with a pack of bullies. Just look at Congress’ record on the environment. GOP lawmakers in the House have voted more than 200 times to undermine public health and environmental safeguards. They have moved to thwart the clean energy technologies that will make our air safer to breathe and put American companies at the forefront of a massive global market. And they have forced America to face the threat of climate change without a national plan for fighting it or even getting prepared.
Most of these votes have been cast in the name of lofty principle and anti-regulatory purity. But ideology for the sake of ideology is irresponsible when your citizens are facing real and pressing dangers, whether it is cancer-causing pollution from power plants or extreme weather events brought on by climate change.
I live in California where a new report was released this week by the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Energy Committee. It notes that climate change will bring my state hotter summers, shorter rainy seasons, and drier days. It will also threaten the state’s electricity sector as the state will have a harder time generating and transmitting power - and let’s not even get into the fact that the report notes the expectation that the sea level along our coasts are expected to rise 31-55 inches by the end of the century.
But at least my state is examining the hazards of climate change. Short-sighted North Carolina lawmakers passed legislation that would prevent predictions about the state’s sea level rise from incorporating climate change trends. How can people protect their families and their property if the state won’t even acknowledge the problem?
The GOP hasn’t always been committed to sticking its head in the sand. It has a long and impressive tradition of supporting environmental protection. President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act, President Bush signed the amendments that made the law stronger, and countless Republican lawmakers have supported conserving America’s natural heritage.
You don’t achieve these milestones by drowning out the voices of your colleagues across the aisle; you do it by conversing, negotiating, and yes, even compromising.
I was pleasantly surprised that House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to a budget deal that will avoid a government shutdown. But my next thought was: oh no, the Tea Party is coming to get you John Boehner. You will be punished for making a deal with the Democrats.
Yet if the Tea Party continues to support candidates who only say no, it is in danger of branding themselves into a corner. Americans may have hit record levels of frustration with Congress, but in the end, we want our government to function. We want lawmakers who are at least willing to talk about the issues facing our nation—and maybe even lead us into the future.