Are We in for Another Round of “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It?”

Go vote. Seriously.

If you need more of a reason to get out there and vote, let’s reflect on a few of the memorable moments in the 2010 midterm election season.

Remember when Ron Johnson, running against Senator Feingold in Wisconsin, said that extreme weather events were caused by sun spots, not global warming pollution.

Or when the Senate candidate from West Virginia John Raese posited , “If you have one volcano in the world, that one volcano puts out more carbon dioxide than everything man puts out.”

Rabid climate denial—despite all facts to the contrary— has received a lot of attention this campaign season. But what got less coverage were the many times candidates denied or conveniently forgot their own party’s history and contradictory policy positions—again, despite all the facts pointing to the truth.

One after another, GOP candidates denounced the cap and trade approach to reducing global warming pollution. Senator Grassley said, “Since a cap-and-trade system inevitably involves increased costs for American consumers, it is in effect a national energy tax.” Nevada’s Sharron Angle said  that people who pass things like cap and trade are “certainly not friends of the free-market system.”

But what these candidates failed to mention is that cap and trade is a Republican policy. It was created under President Ronald Reagan as a flexible, market-based system to reduce pollution without resorting to the “command and control” approach of regulation. (Read this fantastic post by Dan Weiss for more on the history).

President Reagan used cap and trade to phase out lead in gasoline and CFCs. Then President George H.W. Bush used a cap-and-trade system to reduce acid rain. And here is the amazing thing: the 1990 cap and trade system passed the Senate by 89-10 and the House by 401-25. Among its supporters: Senator McConnell and Representatives Gingrich, Barton, and Inhofe.

But that was back in 1990. Fast forward to 2010, the year when the GOP’s philosophy could be summed up by the famous Groucho Marx song: “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.”

So what if the revered President Reagan pioneered cap and trade? If Democrats support it, it must be bad. So what if every time we used cap and trade it has dramatically cut the cost of reducing pollution? If environmentalists support it, it must be an energy tax.

One of the most obvious flip-floppers is Senator McCain. During the presidential campaign just two years ago, McCain said the famous line, “I don’t see how you can be a conservative and not support cap and trade.” But come 2010, he suddenly started calling it a “cap and tax” measure and refused to support it in the Senate.

So, a lot is at stake in this election. You need to go vote. Knock on your neighbor’s door, tell your Mom, call your best friend and tell them all to vote. The issue is not the details of legislation, but an entire worldview. Are important matters going to be dealt with using reason, analysis, science and consistent thinking? Or are ignorance, stubbornness, negativity and political expediency going to rule the day?

We also have to be prepared. We have to fight the deniers by setting the record straight and broadcasting the truth. And we have to do it right away.

We won’t even have a respite after the election because the Clean Air Act will be under attack within weeks by another campaign of falsehoods. So let’s start fighting the ignorance right now.

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