As the Colorado Independent’s Robin Bravender reports, vulnerable 2020 Republicans including Colorado’s own Sen. Cory Gardner are banding together in a new “pro-environment” coalition they’re calling Roosevelt Conservation Caucus–named of course after Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, not Teddy’s socialist cousin:
The kickoff of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus comes after President Trump gave a speech this week touting his administration’s environmental record and as Republican lawmakers appear increasingly eager to herald their green credentials.
Gardner joined other Republicans from the Senate and House on Wednesday to formally announce the launch of the group, which its leaders said will “embrace and promote constructive efforts to resolve conservation and environmental problems that align with market-based approaches and promote American ingenuity.”
Gardner said Wednesday that he hopes the platform will “shine a light on the strong [environmental] leadership” of the Republican caucus.
Unfortunately for Sen. Gardner, nobody’s seems to be very clear on what this record of “strong environmental leadership” from Republicans, you know…consists of:
But environmentalists say Gardner — who’s considered the most vulnerable Republican senator in 2020 — is trying to greenwash his record.
The Roosevelt Conservation Caucus is “all hat and no cattle,” said Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado. “The bottom line is this: Senator Gardner has cast anti-environment votes 85 percent of the time, so the formation of the Roosevelt Conservation caucus could be a good thing, but it has to be action-oriented.” [Pols emphasis]
The story cites a report from Conservation Colorado last month that takes a further look at Gardner’s long record on the environment, which as we’ve discussed at length in this space is heavy on rhetoric and vanishingly light on votes to back up said rhetoric:
[A]ccording to the data experts at the media organization FiveThirtyEight, and based on President Donald Trump’s 2016 election vote margins in Colorado, Senator Gardner would be expected to support the President’s positions about 45 percent of time in the U.S. Senate. And yet, Senator Gardner votes in line with President Trump’s position about 91 percent of the time. This makes him the second-most misaligned Senator with his or her constituents.1
In no policy area is this phenomenon more on display than with conservation and the environment. Since he first became Colorado’s junior U.S. senator, Senator Gardner has voted against policies to protect clean air and water, supported the interests of fossil fuel companies above Colorado’s taxpayers, fought against common-sense laws to limit carbon and air pollution, and helped swing open the doors to America’s public lands for mining and drilling operations. In fact, our analysis shows that during the four years he has been in the Senate, he has voted against the environment four out of every five times. [Pols emphasis]
In broad political terms, it’s extremely difficult for Republicans at any level to credibly run on a platform of support for environmental protection. A modern-day Republican invoking Theodore Roosevelt to suggest Republicans care about the environment is equivalent to pretending the GOP’s racist re-alignment to court votes in the South never happened. On both the environment and race relations, Republicans have transformed into the effective opposite of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
If Cory Gardner wants to “lead on the environment,” there’s a compelling argument he should start by revisiting his endorsement of a Republican President who thinks windmills cause cancer. As long as Gardner is playing second fiddle to a sitting President seemingly determined to make a fool of Republicans who claim their party has a “record of leadership” on the environment, this kind of revisionist “greenwashing” is not just laughable but in fact politically self-harmful.
It leaves an impression that Gardner thinks voters are stupid. Voters don’t like that.