R.E.P., R.I.P.: Republicans For Environmental Protection Drops ‘Republican’ From Its Name

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Republicans helped

  • create our national parks to conserve land
  • launch the EPA to do science-based pollution regulation and
  • invent cap-and-trade to reduce emissions in the most business-friendly, cost-effective way possible.

Ah, but when Obama Wan Kenobi actually got elected President, the fossil fuel empire struck back: Working with and indeed funding the Tea Party (Imperial Storm Troopers?), they turned anti-environmentalism and anti-science denial into a litmus test for all national Republicans.

Still, I’m somewhat surprised by this:

After 16 years of trying to marry their party’s support for drilling and climate change denial with environmental protection, Republicans for Environmental Protection is dropping the word “Republican” from its name.

The group’s new name, ConservAmerica, is designed to “explain the connection between conservatism and conservation” and underscore the group’s ethic of stewardship.

“Our mission is staying exactly the same,” said David Jenkins, the group’s vice president for government affairs. “It’s more of an emphasis issue, switching from the emphasis being on Republican — not that we’re separating ourselves from that at all. It’s just putting the emphasis more on connecting conservation and conservative, which are born of the same root.”

When the brand goes south there’s nothing wrong with changing one’s name, of course — think Accenture (Anderson Consulting), Airtran Airways (ValueJet Airlines), and Altria (Philip Morris) just to start with the A’s. Heck, Google used to be called BackRub!


But I don’t think the problem was the word “Republicans” — since a great many Republicans are still environmentalists, especially at the state and local level. The problem is that the national party has been pulled so far to the right that the “moderates” (who, formerly were mainstream conservatives) either have no place (like Jon Huntsman) or have to Etch-A-Sketch themselves into extremism.

In fact, as I’ve reported, at the individual level, Koch-fueled denial backfired: Independents and other Republicans split with Tea-Party extremists on global warming. A December Pew poll found that from 2009 to 2011, the percentage of moderate or liberal Republicans who say there is “solid evidence” the earth is warming jumped 22 percentage points, from 41% to 63% — 15 percentage points just since last year (from 48 to 63).

It’s not most Republicans who have moved away from the environment, it’s the extremist conservative wing that has moved so far away. So I’m not sure how “ConservAmerica” addresses that. As my colleague Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told Politico:

“Under either name … they face a fundamental challenge that the pro conservation party of Roosevelt, Nixon, Schwarzenegger and McCain has become the climate science denial party of Romney, Santorum and Limbaugh.”

Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader — now that’s a name change!