Santorum is Out; World's Climate Dodges Bullet

Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Rick Santorum, the last (marginally) viable non-Romney candidate has, at long last, dropped out of the GOP primary race. It's bad news for anyone who was entertained by his sweater vests and incomprehensible climate change theorizing, but generally good news for those who like their birth control legal and their policy prescriptions culled from more recent eras than medieval times.

So the environment has dodged a bullet (even if it was a longshot-as-hell of a bullet fired from a tiny, slightly rusty, and archaic gun), since it officially means that the next president of the United States will not actually believe that global warming is a conspiracy.

But that's pretty much where the silver lining evaporates. Mitt Romney might not have gone so far as to deny that climate change exists, but other than that, most of his policy positions in the environmental arena are pretty much indiscriminate. As far as the environment is concerned, a Romney presidency and a Santorum one would probably have looked pretty similar.

Here's why: If Romney were to win the presidency, he'd continue to curry favor from his base. The great lesson of the Romney campaign is that the man has almost no principles of his own, harbors no pressing policy goals (other than to, ostensibly, dismantle the health care law that he built the precedent for) and that he'll say and do almost anything to prove his conservative cred. His prerogative is to appeal to the Republican hive mind, and that wouldn't change once elected.

As leader of the GOP, he'll seek to become the sum of its parts. And right now, that GOP is animated by the will of droves of climate denying, anti-EPA, polluter-friendly mini-Santorums.

Chris Hayes made a variant of this point on the Brian Lehrer show this morning; the modern day GOP is extremely disciplined, and votes most often in lockstep, often on positions endorsed by its Tea Partying freshmen class. Romney would govern by doing their bidding. Which means he'd support the same garbled mass of anti-regulation measures, the same resistance to clean energy, and, of course, the same abhorrence for climate policy of any kind. Just like Santorum.

I'll expand on this tomorrow, and pull together a more nuanced portrait of Romney's environmental positions vis-a-vis those of 2012-era Obama. But for now, suffice to say that the world's climate may have been spared one maniacally anti-science leader—but there's plenty more where that came from.

Tags: Congress | United States

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