The Single-issue Voter: A birder’s look at Mitt Romney (R)
It’s that time again. As civic-minded individuals do, I’m oft interested in how the platforms of those running for president affect my life, that’s as a birder naturally. With so many candidates and elections still more than a year off I decided to do the work so you, dear reader(s), don’t have to. So here’s what I hope will be a regular look as those who would be birder-in-chief. Starting with the long-shots and working my way up so that you all will be prepared when the time comes to cast your ballot. This is the first of a four part series looking at the challenger and the incumbent.
One of the advantages of writing a blog for a very long time (5 years is an eon in internet time!), is that, at some point, you end up covering things you’ve covered many times before. I don’t believe that there is a political figure I have covered more times than Mitt Romney, the republican presidential candidate. This is mostly because he keeps running for president, finally cracking through the tea ceiling this year to become the nominee. So perhaps I can be forgiven for failing to come up with anything more to discuss when it comes to Mitt Romney. When he was running for president in 2008, I complained about his banal focus group approved positions and the fact that you don’t know which Mitt, the relatively progressive Massachusetts governor or the fire-breathing wingnut, you would get. That is still relevant.
Earlier this year, while Romney was running for the 2012 GOP nomination, I wrote that Romney appeared to be a completely political animal, willing to say whatever he needed to say to whomever he needed to say it to get elected. That, too, is still relevant.
So what more is there? His environmental policy is nonexistent and his energy policy is dependent entirely on the fantastical idea that letting extractive energy industries do what they want will accomplish amorphous and patently contradictory goals of energy independence and affordability. He’s shown a resistance to even the idea of public lands, which for birders is the lynchpin on which our hobby depends. And perhaps worse, or at least most confusingly, this comes from a politician who, by modern standards, wasn’t an awful steward of public lands as a governor of Massachusetts. As cheif executive of the Bay State, he increased penalties and enforcement of the state’s anti-pollution laws, especially in response to the Buzzard Bay oil spill which impacted nearly 100 miles of Massachusetts coastline and killed over 400 seabirds and closed shellfish beds for a year. He teamed up with the EPA to provide beach water testing free of charge for over 60 communities. He regulated mercury emissions and even instigated a green communities initiative to encourage developers to use environmentally-friendly building techniques and smart growth development practices and make all that affordable for normal citizens.
But for the last decade that he’s been preparing for his coronation, he’s abandoned any semblance of those positions. He’s twisted and turned so often that it’s impossible to get a clear bead on what he’d do if elected. Perhaps the most he’s said about conservation and birds came from the second presidential debate when he, without even bothering to hide the condescension in his voice, accused the president of creating a environment in which energy companies would be fined by the EPA for the “killing 20 to 25 birds in North Dakota”.
Putting aside the fact that the oil companies charged under the Migratory Bird tTeaty Act with the deaths of several ducks killed in open reserve pits, massive lakes of mining effluent and toxins, saw those charge ultimately dismissed, the barely concealed sneer in Romney’s voice indicated that the habitat needs of migratory birds were hardly a matter of concern when there are massive profits to be made in North Dakota. It is there, among the wealthy investor class, where his true loyalty lies. In fact, it is his positions on regulation of industry that have seen scarcely any movement in his years as a politician. Of course, neither have they seen a lot of light as the focus groups that have informed his entire campaign tend to have issues with the unregulated and oppressive hand of Romney’s corporate allies. And he does go on at length about the impact of unspecified “regulation” with regard to the oil and gas industry, so it doesn’t take a genius to see that Romney’s derision would undoubtedly mean bad things for our landmark environmental policies that have made it such that birders are able to continue to find birds to watch into the 21st Century.
For as many question marks remain about the impact a Romney Administration would mean for our public lands and the wildlife that live in them, what small clues remain suggest that he wouldn’t be a good thing in the least.