The Single-issue Voter: A birder’s look at Newt Gingrich (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 fifth of The Drinking Bird’s however many parts it takes series.
I’ve been trying to do these Single-issue Voter things in some semblance of an order from least likely candidate to most, but the whims of the GOP electorate have made this increasingly difficult. Take, for instance, the fact that I wrote a primer on Rick Santorum back in November when he was running at about 5% nationally. Now? He’s the flavor of the month for those poor souls who have not yet resigned themselves to the fact that professional jar of marshmallow creme and 2008 also-ran Mitt Romney will be, without a shred of doubt from this bystander, the republican nominee for president this year. Republicans are, if nothing else, slaves to a party hierarchy and Romney, by virtue of his 2008 loss (just like 2000 loser McCain before him) will win because it’s his turn.
That doesn’t mean we ignore the others. At least we try not to. I mean, I didn’t even get to jump on that shooting star that was the Herman Cain campaign (and good thing too, because the man had not discernible platform for anything, let along environmental issues). No sir/ma’am, we’ll press ourselves to the front of the crowd and damn well applaud as the clown parade comes down the street. They may jostle, but we all know the fat man in the sleigh at the end is going to be Romney
Speaking of girthy gentlemen, Newt Gingrich is running for president, having already ridden the crest of not-Romney sentiment and experiencing his steady and inevitable decline into total irrelevance. This look at Gingrich’s credentials likely comes a bit too late, but I’m happy to provide whatever bump The Drinking Bird can provide, because honestly, Gingrich, by virtue of his very very long political career has taken a variety of stances on issues that are of interest to bird people. Some of which are rather reasonable. Take, for instance, his past co-sponsorship of the Endangered Species Act.
Yes, that Endangered Species Act.
He also co-sponsored the Clean Air Act and the Alaska Land Act, which proposed setting aside nearly 80 million acres as a wilderness area. His critiques of the aforementioned Endangered Species Act, having to do with adequate compensation for private property appropriated under the act, are entirely reasonable and concerns I actually share (compensate the hell out of ’em, I say. How else will they consider protecting that land?). Note, though, that these are positions that Gingrich took more than 30 years ago. His transition from principled conservative to bomb-throwing reactionary says as much about the direction of the Republican Party as it does about Gingrich. Politicians are inherently concerned first and foremost about their own political future. This isn’t necessarily a vice in that it can indicate a politician with his constituents’ interests in the forefront of his/her mind, but with the massive influx of money involved in modern political campaigns, it means now that politicians are courting an ever smaller group of more and more influential (read: rich) individuals. Individuals with interests in extraction industries, individuals with environmental regulations to dodge, and individuals that are not, generally, you and me.
What you get now is the sort of things you see on Gingrich’s own campaign website, presumably the policies Gingrich holds now with regard to environmental and energy policy (there’s that pet peeve again…), which can be summarized as “let extraction industries do what they want and limit peoples’ opportunities for recompense if they’ve been wronged”. I mean, that really is it. He jumps, with both feet, on the train to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, this from the same man who, as a congressman, fought for the inclusion of 15 additional toxins to the list of those regulated by the EPA as per the Safe Drinking Water Act. The man wrote a book called A Contract with the Earth, for pete’s sake. It’s full of business-fluffing BS and so-called “free-market” conservation (whatever the hell that is), of course, but no less a scientific luminary than E.O. Wilson wrote the forward. Really, it well boggles the mind.
So I’m hesitant to go too deep into his record because it’s so completely incoherent. Even by the impressively low standards set by this current field of GOP candidates, it’s a complete muddle, mostly because every single position he’s taken that could conceivably be seen as a net positive for birds and wildlife has been walked back in dramatic, one might even say violent, fashion. He’s playing to a different crowd here, one smaller, wealthier, and uninterested in environmental issues, be they energy or land-use related.
So Newt isn’t either, but he’d sure like it if you bought his book though. So long as you don’t show it to any Republican primary voters, of course.