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View Full Version : Conservatives decide to stop conserving



SnakebyteXX
11-20-2004, 11:31 AM
By PATT MORRISON

Almost nine months before, I had put down my name and my deposit on the wait list for a hybrid car. Did I say wait? This wasn't a wait, it was a gestation.

Then I got the call: Congratulations, it's a Prius. The night before I picked it up, I did a TV news gig. I ran into a friend who works at the station, and I told her how excited I was about the Prius. A Republican political aide, whose boss had been on TV with me, heard us. "Huh," he said sarcastically. "Does it come with a Kerry sticker?"

It made me wonder: When did conserving - saving - gasoline, or anything else, become something those awful liberals do? When did big SUVs and bigger federal deficits redefine "conservative"? When did conservatives start mocking conservation?

The original Mr. Conservation Republican being unavailable, I turned instead to his great-grandson,Theodore Roosevelt IV, namesake of the president who inspired the national park system. This is the same TR who camped in Yosemite with John Muir, who stood at the edge of the Arroyo Seco and begged Los Angeles not to spoil it because it would make one of the world's great parks. Now it's one of the world's great freeways.

That Teddy Roosevelt. His great-grandson is a Republican and a letterhead name for the Wilderness Society, the League of Conservation Voters, the Global Strategy for the Environment and the World Resources Institute. When I told him of the politico's snarky remark about my green-mobile, he said: "What an offensive reaction that is: 'I know you're right morally, so I'll sneer at you.'" The original meaning of "conservative," he went on, has been dumped like an ashtray emptied out a car window. "It's no longer used even in economic terms. Conservatives are saying 'Have budget deficits, spend money, don't worry about the future,' " and applying " 'conservative' ... almost exclusively to family values or social issues."

The original TR's barnstorming bestowed on the West a special, if not always consistent, stake in the politics of conservation. The Santa Barbara oil blowout in 1969 re-greened state politics: No Republican can fare well without at least giving lip service to the environment.

When Pete Wilson ran for governor, Ronald Reagan praised him as a "Teddy Roosevelt Republican." And even though Wilson's veto pen sometimes ran like a weed-whacker through environmental bills, on the stump Wilson intoned that "Californians should be able to make a living in a state worth living in." Gov. Reagan sulked when voters created the Coastal Commission on his watch. George Deukmejian tried to strangle it, and both the Reagan and Bush White Houses got knuckles rapped when they tried to pry the state's fingers off control of offshore drilling.

Rosevelt IV thinks another California Republican could lead us back to the green pathways, uniting hook-and-bullet conservationists with Earth Day-celebrating urban conservationists. "In a funny way, Schwarzenegger has really made the environment an important issue," he says.

"Yeah, he has his Hummers. But when you have Arnold as arguably the second or third most important Republican politician in the country right now, he's setting a kind of leadership."

What kind? Gov. Schwarzenegger's press hoo-ha last month about his vow to hydrogen-ate one of his Hummers was about as real as a cinema shoot-'em-up. The Hummer wasn't his but a prototype; the hydrogen pump he stuck into the gas tank was a prop at a station that wasn't even open.

Blue states could make common cause with greenies in red states by demonstrating that it's about protecting ourselves not just from terrorism but from our own feckless carelessness and a dollar democracy that equates citizenship with throwaway consumerism.

My grandmother reused aluminum foil, even when she could afford not to. "Gommy" patched trousers instead of buying a new pair, filed down the chip in the glass pitcher instead of getting a new one.

Where's the buy-and-spend consumer patriotism in that? What kind of American was she? My grandmother would be Wal-Mart's Public Enemy No. 1. My grandmother - Gommy the Commie.

Link (http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041120/NEWS/411200353/1033/NEWS01)