“I long the for return of Republicans who believe there is no problem so large that American ingenuity and enterprise cannot solve it”. Bob Inglis said this recently, at a panel discussion I attended on climate change, but the messages he was delivering went well beyond the environment.
For those unfamiliar with Inglis, he had been a multi-term South Carolina Congressman. In 2010 he was targeted, during the Republican nomination process, by the Tea Party, because of his belief that climate change is real and created by human activity. He lost the nomination for a seat he had won 4 times; almost unheard of in US politics.
The panel was ostensibly about how to build support for a carbon tax to fight climate change. But really, climate change was just an example of Inglis’ larger message — the Republican Party has morphed: from a party that believes America and its free market system take on big problems and solve them as only America can; to a party that denies problems or blames others for problems, but refused constructive debate on solutions. They have become a party of cowards and fear mongers.
I am not a conservative, but Inglis’ message really resonated with me. The United States is having the wrong conversations now. It is far more constructive to mutually acknowledge a problem, be it climate change, the health care system, education or immigration and have a traditional right/left debate on how to solve it: what is the role of government, what is the role of markets, how do you parse individual versus collective responsibility. These are important questions and both perspectives matter.
Inglis told a story about a meeting he had with five former funders. They said Obama was a Marxist, Communist who wanted to open the Mexican border and let all the Muslims in so that he could declare himself dictator of the United States. Inglis’ response was that “I don’t think it is quite that bad” and he stated to engage them in debate on what Obama was doing (which he strongly disagreed with). He lost their funding and their vote.
Right now, the US seems to have lost this ability to debate solutions constructively. Republicans preach fear and romanticize a past that never was. Democrats are left to be the only ones proposing serious solutions and, without the counterbalance of serious conservatives, they probably do tack a little too far to the left.
The world needs a strong America willing to engage seriously on serious issues. Climate change is a good example. No other country in the world has the free enterprise sophistication and mass to develop the technologies the world will need to seriously reduce greenhouse gasses. We need the US turning its entrepreneurial spirit to this massive problem. Only Republicans can turn that ship around.
Bob Inglis gave me a bit of hope that there are Republicans who, when they long for a better time, are seeing the future not the past.