Tip of Glacier Point, Yosemite. Image credit: Flickr, planetc1, Micheal Dorausch
Immediately upon entering the GOP presidential primary contest, Jon Huntsman blurted the truth about his Party being at risk, having recently squandered its credibility on prospective solutions to one of the biggest problems facing the nation. (No...not the economy; the other, much bigger, problem.) For background see: For Solving Big Problems: Jon Huntsman Cites Republican Traditions In Science & Logic Why did he hail to GOP scientific traditions? Did he want to be discounted by the Republican Party 'base' who think climate is a non-issue?Tobacco tipping point simile.
The best way I can explain why Huntsman's statement is so strategically important is to draw a simile with how, in the blink of society's eye, smokers went from being publicly accepted everywhere - surgeons smoking in the break room; colleagues blowing smoke in the faces of everyone at the meeting table, movie heroes with cigarettes dangling from the corners of their mouths - to being publicly shunned. Over just a few short years, the man with burning leaves in his mouth was banned even from lighting up out back of the office or on the sidewalk. Even the French are cutting back.
Malcolm Gladwell explained some of the processes by which the tobacco tipping point was reached in his book "Tipping Point," which is described in brief here.
Tobacco use in the USA is still high, of course.. But, what smokers can't do anymore is blow smoke in our face. Public moaning about rights being violated doesn't hold political water. No one wants to hear it. The audience, not the message, changed.
Climate deniers have blown their special brand of smoke in our face for decades; and now, all but one of the current roster of Republican presidential candidates have decided they too should behave like the cool think tank guys did, blowing Astroturf talking points at TV reporters.
Most reporters just passively grimace and blink when this happens...as did everyone else in the bars, meeting rooms, and cubicle farms of the late 1980's and early 1990's. But the passivity won't last: the tipping point on climate awareness approaches. Whether the toppling happens this year or three years from now matters little.
The tip, whether driven by a series of extreme weather-caused tragedies or by the insistence of industry funded lobbyists acting to protect their clients' investments - will seriously compromise the credibility of leaders who, on the record, blew the smoke. No voter will trust the solutions they'll offer. Their backroom negotiating power, too, will be gone.
Jon Huntsman's Dirty Harry moment on climate.
Fans of Clint Eastwood will recall the Dirty Harry line: "...you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
In a metaphorical way, Huntsman has asked all the other Republican primary opponents, 'Do you feel lucky about keeping credibility intact for 4 or 5 more years?' His audience, however, goes far beyond the GOP presidential primary slate. It includes the leaders of industry and the trade groups who see the strategic decision coming and want to be sure they can be at the table when real solutions must be found.
Captains of industry, CEO's on private jets, advocacy VP's: - ask yourselves a question before you next hand out campaign donations: "Do I feel lucky about having a voice in finding climate solutions?"