Linda Steil and Justin Amash are keeping some strange company this final week of the primary season: Dave Agema. This happy trio from West Michigan are the only locals to step and sign the No Climate Tax pledge.
This Pledge, a creature of Americans for Prosperity, is part of their campaign against the Climate Security Act, aka the Lieberman-Warner bill. The bill would have instituted a cap-and-trade approach to carbon emissions, but was withdrawn by Senate leadership on June 7 — remember that date.
So our trio fell for a lobbying campaign? Well not quite. Although 54 senators opposed the Lieberman-Warner measure, only one, Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) took the pledge. We are in the territory of fringe Republican politics, here, as the pledge itself makes clear:
I … pledge to the taxpayers of the State of Michigan that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in state or local government revenue.
Not a dime more to save the planet. The categorical breadth of the pledge, its refusal to consider any measure at all is a stunning sample of a failure to engage. There is a deep irresponsibility at work here, one that elevates a no-tax creed to the summit. In a word this is political idolatry.
Yet almost as incomprehensible, their signed statement is up on the web (see pledges below the fold).
One wants to stop and ask, “What were they thinking?”
Does our stay-at-home mom really believe that we shouldn’t spend any more money on the environment? Is our Michigan -educated lawyer really this divorced from reality? One also wants to ask, “what were you folks thinking signing something that ends up on the web?”
In the context of their battle for the Republican nomination for the Michigan State House District 72, their pledge reveals a lot more about the state of GOP politics. Look at the statements: they signed their statements on July 7 (Amash) and July 8 (Steil) — that’s a month after the bill was withdrawn. So what did they think they were doing? Most assuredly this: pandering to the Right.
In the context of the 72nd they were honestly trying to shore up their conservative credentials and perhaps to box in the other contender, Ken Yonker. If he doesn’t sign — and he hasn’t — then he could be mis-portrayed as the liberal in the race, the one who also is on a real, functioning school board. (Public education is another point of demonization for our Republican friends).
But with this inside political baseball, let’s not forget the fact that this pledge takes root in a real wing of the Republican Party, one whose skepticism on government spending has metastasized into rejection of any steps to help the environment, often wrapped up in the language of Christian faith. This only makes the position of Steil and Amash the odder, the former is rather nominal in her religious identity, and Amash is cradle Orthodox, not exactly the stuff of a cultural warrior.
So let’s call it cynicism and be done. Of course, we do have it in writing.