Let Voters Make Their Own Choice on the Environment | The Times-Picayune

New Orleans voters

Voting at St. Dominic School on Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo by Brett Duke, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


What would the nation’s environmental policies look like if voters decided who ran our environmental agencies? Here’s why I ask that question — and a possible solution.

For years opinion polls have consistently shown the overwhelming majority of Americans want stronger environmental protections – even if it might cost them more money or “even at the risk of curbing economic growth.”

And a Gallup polls this year showed that opinion remains strong. Among its findings:

  • 62 percent say government is doing too little on the environment, the highest since 2006;
  • A majority prioritize the environment even if it limits economic growth;
  • Americans show strong support for curbing emissions and alternative energy.

Of course, there is a strong partisan divide on this issue, as Gallup notes:

“Eighty-five percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the government is doing too little, compared with 31% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. By contrast, just over two-thirds of Republicans say actions of the government on the environment are about right or say it is doing too much. These partisan differences have been generally consistent over time.”

That consistent difference has repeatedly prompted me to ask my conservative friends this question: Show me why it’s inconsistent to be pro-life, pro-gun, pro-small government — and pro-environment?

Grimacing, they typically have answered this way: “I’m against my party’s environmental policies, but I never get a chance to vote for pro-environment conservatives — and I just can’t vote for a Democrat for all the other reasons. I really never get the choice.”

They’re right. And that’s because of the money that now controls our politics, especially on the GOP side. Thanks to Supreme Court rulings that have unleashed an uncontrolled flood of money into elections, deep-pocketed polluting and anti-regulatory lobbies largely decide not only who wins GOP congressional elections, but also who gets to run — and who stays in office.

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