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Environmental Hazards

Why the climate campaign failed.

Sep 27, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 02 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
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If judicial philosophy is a worry to the League of Conservation Voters, moreover, why pick the Brown confirmation vote to score, rather than the Supreme Court confirmation vote that same year of John Roberts? Not only was Roberts heading for the top position on the highest court, he had challenged the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act in a dissenting opinion where he spoke of a “hapless toad” in California. But 22 Democratic senators voted to confirm Roberts, versus only one for Brown—scoring the more significant Roberts vote instead would have lowered more Democratic scores. Scoring the Brown vote made Republican moderates like Maine’s Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe look bad, never mind erstwhile cap and trade supporters Graham and John McCain.

But the final reason the League of Conservation Voters decided to score the Brown vote rather than the Roberts vote is that the activist left targeted Brown for defeat because she is an African American, and the left is terrified of conservative minorities in prominent positions. The entire hive of leftist groups from the NAACP, NOW, People for the American Way, and even the National Council of Jewish Women opposed Brown’s nomination. The League of Conservation Voters could be counted upon to take one for the team because that’s how they roll. Other left coalition-pleasing but environmentally dubious scoring items include opposing free trade agreements and supporting low-income energy assistance so poor people can use more fossil fuels. The final irony for the greens is that had John McCain (who received zeroes on League of Conservation Voters scorecards in 2007 and 2008) been elected president instead of Obama (who almost always scored perfectly for the League of Conservation Voters—when he was around to cast a Senate vote), we’d likely have a cap and trade bill in place right now, as McCain would have made it a higher priority than health care reform. He had co-sponsored earlier cap and trade proposals with Senator Joe Lieberman.

In other words, the “nonpartisan” League of Conservation Voters is to the Democratic party what the “nonpartisan” National Rifle Association is to the Republican party—a reliable wingman. The only asymmetry is that so many people are fooled by it, starting with the greens themselves.

Steven F. Hayward is resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the forthcoming Almanac of Environmental Trends.

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