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Is this hell? No, it’s Iowa: A Single-issue Voter Redux

January 10, 2008
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Like many of you I’ve been watching the returns for the early primaries and caucuses. I’ve been noting an uptick in my blog traffic for those people using Google to get information on the candidates from the environmental profiles I wrote a couple months ago. If my somewhat biased perceptions on the candidates help anyone, or at least cause them to think about environmental issues, than that’s a good thing. I suppose I jumped the gun a little though, with regard to gauging interest in national politics. So now some of the candidates I profiled are gone. Some like Biden and Dodd who I liked, some like Tancredo and Brownback I did not. And there are several for whom it looks like it’s all over but the shouting in Thompson, Paul, Richardson and Kucinich. But if there’s anything we can count on, it’s that there will be plenty of shouting.

It’s starting to be a three horse race in each of the parties. Mitt, Huck, and Johnny in the red corner. Hill, Bama and other Johnny in the blue. So here’s some quick hits on those six candidates based primarily on my older profiles, but also including new stuff if relevant.

Red Scare-
Mitt Romney – My concerns about Romney stemmed mainly from the fact that he has decided that the relatively progressive environmental platform (and you have to be really relative) he held as Governor of Massachusetts is not politically expedient in a national campaign. His current platform, such that it is, consists of energy independence through ANWR drilling, ethanol and biofuel, and a full exploitation of “clean” coal. Needless to say, bad for the environment, bad for bird habitat, bad for birders. Update – Romney is no longer running

Mike Huckabee – There’s still nothing on his official site about environmental issues past energy independence and he’s status quo on that. You know the drill. Open ANWR, burn corn, rinse, repeat. I should point out he stresses conservation more than his opponents though. I had originally placed him as my top Republican candidate based on his record of habitat preservation as Governor of Arkansas, but I remain unconvinced that that ethic will continue in a Huckabee administration or that he’d even give it more than lip service anymore. Update- Huckabee is out

John McCain – Under the circumstances, McCain’s not a terrible choice for the conservation minded Republican. He’s been critical of the Bush Administration’s environmental policies, especially with regard to climate change, and opposes drilling in ANWR. Somewhat concerning is his recent support for ethanol and biodiesel even though he opposed it less recently, but he and longshot Ron Paul are the only Republican candidates with a statement on the environment (as opposed to energy) on their official campaign website. So at least he’s trying, but his New Hampshire victory speech was really really awful. Update- McCain is now the republican presidential nominee

Blue Boys-
John Edwards – Personally, I like Edwards. I like the “two Americas” shtick. I like the anti-lobbyist bit. But his environmental platform is weak weak weak. He advocates both farmland conservation programs and ethanol production, I don’t see how you can reconcile both of those positions. The platform is by and large centered on broad abstract statements about global warming and foreign fuel dependency issues with nothing on things that affects individual citizens on a personal level. It stinks of pandering to a trendy issue without much depth and it rubs me the wrong way. Update – The first of the big boys is out, Edwards is no longer running.

Hillary Clinton – I wasn’t that impressed with Clinton’s environmental platform when I looked at it before and to be honest, I like her a bit more but I’m still not a huge fan. Her energy policy is heavily weighed towards home-grown biofuels, calling for 60 million gallons by 2030 although it seems that her campaign website has downplayed this from the last time I looked at it. Her encouragement of a “green” economy is interesting, though her conservation and efficiency policies appear to be more geared towards businesses and are on a scale that is difficult for individual citizens to grasp. I’d still like to see more on preservation of open spaces, though.

Barack Obama – If my estimation of Clinton’s environmental platform has risen since my last look, I have to say the opposite when it comes to Obama. Make no mistake, I’m still an Obama supporter, largely because he was endorsed by my man Kucinich, but his campaign website, which used to have some statements as to Obama’s plans to overturn several of the Bush Administration’s more egregious environmental decisions, is now entirely devoted to energy policy and global warming. It’s not that I think that these aren’t important issues, but I’d like to see some concern for resource exploration on public land and some motivation to protect areas of ecological importance. Obama mentions encouraging private land owners to conserve range and wetlands, but once again I have a hard time seeing how that reconciles with an ethanol based domestic energy policy.

In the end, I’m still a little disappointed that with all the talk about hope and change, that the policies that the candidates are running on leave more than a bit to be desired with regards to the environment. There is a real tendency to ignore environmental issues in national policy discussions, to our detriment. And when they are brought to the forefront it’s often broadly applied to the “nation” rather than efforts that the average citizens can take to heart. Because of that it’s hard for us to have hope that there’s anything we can do as individuals, when that’s certainly far from the truth. With that in mind, I support Obama given his history as an Illinois state senator of making the environmental movement tangible for those people who have been distanced from it in the past. I have to think that’s the attitude going forward that’s going to be most successful. If I have to make an endorsement, it’s him

The results are clear to one degree though, that all of the Democrats put up far more bird-friendly platforms than any of their opponents. If that’s not enough to get birders to the polls, then I got nothing else for you.

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One Comment
  1. John permalink
    January 10, 2008 5:57 pm

    I would prefer to see more discussion of the environment and of energy other than ethanol, but unfortunately they are just following the current conventional wisdom. The best we can really hope for is that the next president will appoint real conservationists to the relevant cabinet positions and government agencies. Of the three Dems, I think Edwards might be the least likely to appoint industry hacks, but you never know.

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