Some republicans are fighting to restore the issues of
conservation and environmental protection to the party’s platform. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… some party
members say republican leadership has too often abandoned
Some republicans are fighting to restore the issues of conservation and
environmental protection to the party’s platform. Some party members say republican
leadership has too often abandoned environmentalism. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Republicans often note with pride that it was a republican president –
Theodore Roosevelt – who championed conservation and preservation. Teddy
Roosevelt pushed for laws to protect Yellowstone Park and to conserve timber
During this year’s race for president, the top two republican candidates
often invoke the name of Theodore Roosevelt. Here’s John McCain at a news
conference in New Hampshire.
“Teddy Roosevelt was the guy responsible for the national park
system in America… ”
And George W. Bush in a speech found on his website.
“The legacy of Theodore Roosevelt is an America that has made
significant progress in protecting our environment… ”
But, some in the Republican Party say the party’s leadership has neglected
that legacy, among them is Theodore Roosevelt – the fourth. Roosevelt says
it’s impossible to know exactly what his great grandfather would have
thought about his name being bandied about by today’s politician.
“On the one hand, I think he’d be very proud because he clearly
has become a symbol for enlightened, progressive environmental leadershipand he’d be
very proud of that. On the other hand, he believed very clearly
in the idea of being forthright and one of the things that you will see
today in the Congressional leadership and sometimes in Washington, people
who are anything but environmentalists trying to clothe themselves in a
cloak of green and he’d be the first one stripping that false cloak off
Roosevelt is a republican and active in supporting environmentalism. He is
the chairman of the league of conservation voters. Each year the group
issues scorecards that track politician’s votes on the environment.
Roosevelt says he knows republican politicians who fight for the
environment. But he says too often republican leadership – particularly
Congressional leadership – fails to support sound environmental laws.
“And as a Republican, what just drives me stark raving mad is
when we pursue dumb politics that gets you unelected and bad public policy
at the same time. There’s just no justification for that.”
Roosevelt is not alone. Other republicans make the same complaint. In fact,
in 1995, a new group was formed, calling itself Republicans for Environmental
Protection. It’s grown to three thousand members in forty-seven states. Martha Marks
is the group’s president.
“We believe that the Republican Party has just made up its mind that
this is just not an issue that Republicans care about or should care about
and they’re willing to cede that to the Democrats. We think that’s an
absolutely idiotic position to take given the fact that something like
eighty-percent of the American people routinely say they consider themselves
Marks says she’s not sure how the conservative wing of the Republican Party
came to take what she considers to be anti-environmental positions. She says
environmental protection and careful use of natural resources is more
conservative than what she calls squandering for short-term profit.
“We believe that conservation is conservative. It is fundamentally
conservative to be a conservationist. It is not conservative to squander our
But one political observer says getting the conservative members of the
Republican leadership to completely redefine their environmental positions
might be asking too much. Alan Lichtman is a professor of history at
American University and the author of books about presidential politics.
“To the extent the Republicans might want to debate the environment, it would have more to do, I
think, with the broader picture of
how we go about enforcing environmentalism. That is, do we rely on the
regulatory approach or do we move more toward a compact with business,
cooperation, and voluntary compliance. And they might want to take on the
broader issue of the economic impact.”
But the group Republicans for Environmental Protection wants to push the
debate further. In 1996, the group was too new and too small to affect any
changes in the national convention party platform. Marks says this time
around the group has met with several staffers and leaders from the
Republican National Committee. Marks says the group has more political clout
“They definitely know we’re out here. They actually wish we would
sit down and shut up. But we are not doing so and we are going to be very
In recent years, the group has been recruiting like-minded republicans,
including people in other conservation organizations, such as Theodore
Roosevelt the fourth.
Roosevelt says he has some political advice for the candidates who are
campaigning across the country. He says the candidates invoking his
great-grandfather’s name should follow a similar path.
“Move toward the center and recognize that this is an issue that
is important to eighty-percent of the American people and do so in a way that
reflects a strong commitment and support clean air, support clean water,
work on having a good public lands policy.”
Roosevelt says his fellow republicans should remember when Richard Nixon won
in a landslide in 1972, he had supported the legislation for clean air and
water. The environmental protection was established during his
administration. Roosevelt says it’s not that Nixon was an environmentalist…
but he was a wise politician.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.