Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ignorance is Seen as Strength

South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis has a 93 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, but he was not "conservative" enough to be re-elected in these toxic times. One of only two Republican members of Congress to be voted out of office, he is also one of only two who "believe" in human-induced climate change.

In the interview A Republican Swamped by the GOP Wave, Rep. Inglis explains how the current movement is a corruption of what he, his father, and Teddy Roosevelt understood as conservatism. His discussion reminds me of an elderly Republican lady I met at a state-wide meeting on environmental conservation about a decade ago. The keynote speaker was Massachusetts Environmental Secretary Bob Durand, a Republican official appointed by a Republican governor. As I sat with this lady at lunch, she asked why Republicans had gotten such a bad name among conservationists; apparently, she had heard other attendees expressing surprise that we would be addressed by a Republican, and she could not figure out  why. After all, she knew that Republicans were among the leading conservationists in New England, and conserving the Earth was, well, conservative. As I explained to her at the time -- and she wistfully accepted my explanation -- a group of nihilists had decided to take over one political party or the other back in the 1980s, and they had chosen her party.

Rep. Inglis is among a dwindling number of Republicans to understand what "conservative" actually means. Like his father, he thinks that conserving resources is conservative, but he is being replaced by those who think it is conservative to waste resources and send other people's kids abroad to defend the right to do so. Sadly, his brand of conservatism is on the wane in Washington.

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