“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
It’s an overused cliche in politics, but like most cliches it carries more than a shred of truth. When all you bring to the potluck of solutions is a diss for everyone else’s dish, don’t be surprised to find your startled mugshot staring up from the desserts section of some omnibus package.
And make no mistake, fellow Republicans: when it comes to our changing climate, we’re today’s special.
Many Republicans have refused to play ball with Democrats on curbing emissions, dismissing (rightly) calls for heavy-handed regulation and increased government. But what exciting, free-market, small-government solutions have we concocted as our answer to rally the voting masses?
Nothing. That’s been our call to action. “Do nothing, because the Democrats don’t have the right answer, and we’re too busy to give you one.”
And thus we’ve made donkeys out of all of us.
Republicans have been hemorrhaging younger voters on this issue, with larger losses to come. A Pew study recently revealed that 49% of Millennial and Gen Z Republican voters believe the federal government is doing too little to address our changing climate, compared to 25% of Republican voters from the Boomer generation.
By not providing a compelling alternative voice in the climate discussion we’ve left a giant unfilled hole, giving America no choice but to be sucked into the vacuum of whatever the left proposes.
As Republicans, our position on climate can no longer be that we don’t have one. The political (and planetary) costs are too high. We must elbow our way to the head of the climate solutions table with free market solutions that easily out-compel the regulatory nightmare that would accompany proposals like the Green New Deal.
So how do we get off the menu? And what do conservative climate solutions look like? When it comes to answering these questions, for whatever reason deep red Utah leads the country.
Scott Anderson, president of Zions Bank and often considered “Utah’s unelected governor,” recently came forward endorsing a carbon fee and dividend. It is projected this solution would beat the targets of the Paris Climate Accords without growing the size of government, halting the economy or hurting the poor. Sen. Mitt Romney recently floated his interest in this very same idea in a podcast interview.
Rep. John Curtis wrote an article in February titled “The left should not dominate the conversation on climate change.” And he’s been backing up that philosophy with regular climate chats for over a year.
Other conservatives are fighting for the deregulation of nuclear energy, which is by far our most clean and cost-efficient stepping stone to fully renewable energy.
Put simply, these Republican leaders want to pick from the menu. Not adorn it.
They want to craft climate solutions that clean our air, strengthen our economy, and help our poor. And if we do it right, we can repeal regulatory overreaches and keep the American market free and uninhibited for generations to come. What could be more Republican than that?
If being Republican means taking the opposite position of Democrats on every single issue, every single time, then the party is too tribally dysfunctional to retain the likes of me and much of the upcoming generations. But if we as Utahns can rally Republicans to our roots of fiscal sanity, decisive problem solving and small-government legislation, we won’t have to gerrymander our way to national influence. What a refreshing change that would be.
I hope to see Utah lead out in the climate discussion. Not just compared to other red states, but leading the blue states as well. For too long we’ve stood against solutions rather than standing for our own. The future belongs to those who see it the most clearly. It’s time to rub our bleary eyes, and narrow our focus.
It’s now or never, Utah. It’s time to get off the menu.
Nick Huey is a Republican climate change activist and grassroots lobbyist living with his wife and children in Taylorsville, Utah. He graduated from BYU in 2018 and owns Terratect, a small ad agency for nonprofits.