Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LoBiondo surrenders to Tea Party, abandons his energy views

The big news -- though sadly not that surprising -- is that Frank LoBiondo has surrendered to the most extreme elements of his party (my bold):

Although they're upset with his "aye" vote on cap and trade, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Bridgeton) says he welcomes primary opposition, and is encouraged by the organizing efforts of the Tea Party movement.

"I think it's great," says the 16-year veteran of the U.S. House. "A lot of people are energized, and when people are energized, we're all better off."

"If the cap and trade vote came up again, I wouldn't support it," adds LoBiondo, who would like to see the country develop a coherent energy policy - without the tax penalties included in the bill he originally supported.

He couldn't have put it any more plainly unless he was wearing a "white flag" on his lapel. I am disappointed but again not surprised.

It does show that LoBiondo had a lot of projection going on when he yelled at Lou Magazzu:

I believe this nation is on a disastrous march. And now Democrats are losing votes because of the policies of extremists in your party.

According to LoBiondo's previously expressed views, our energy policy was on a disastrous course but now he has flipped his vote because of extremists in the Republican party. Sad to blame someone else for it. After all, cap and trade is a Republican idea:

I'm just old enough to remember when policies like cap-and-trade were quintessentially conservative. As an econ undergrad in the 1980s, cap-and-trade was the leading light in a suite of then radical, new, market-based regulatory ideas propounded by right-of-center economists. These new market-based approaches, they argued, would achieve superior amelioration of environmental problems without the heavy-handed inefficiencies of the "command-and-control" limits embraced by liberals in the 1970s. During my undergrad years, and the the years after, there was a decent debate about the policy and economic merits of the competing approaches to regulation. I imagine someone with Lexis Nexis could even find historical documents (Galaxy Quest!) of elected Republicans advocating cap-and-trade approaches as a conservative alternative to old-fashioned, unfair "liberalism."

Fast forward to 2009, and I confess I still find myself amazed that the conservative policy won the argument... Ironically, while their proposals were winning in the marketplace of ideas, the Republican party has abandoned the field of competition and retreated into an extremism that would probably shock even the 1964 edition of Barry Goldwater. Where you might have seen someone like Jack Kemp endorsing cap-and-trade as a sexy new idea 25 years ago, now the very same policy approach is crazy communism to today's Republicans. The policy hasn't changed, but the Republican party sure has. What was once a center-right party looking for innovative new ideas (like cap-and-trade), it is now a right-of-everyone-but-the-lunatics rump, mistrustful of any and all public policy and clinging only to the irrational scraps that feed their hysterical, anti-scientific state of denial. Kind of sad, really.

As LoBiondo has been in Congress since 1994, he really needs to look in the mirror and ask how he let this happen.