If liberals can accept that Barack Obama wasn’t born in a manger, surely conservatives can accept that he wasn’t present in the Garden when the forbidden fruit was eaten. Sin did not enter the world when Barack Obama won the White House, but you might gather as much from watching a Republican presidential debate.
Amidst the rancor of these debates, humanity occasionally breaks out and from the most surprising sources. Consider the exchange between Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump regarding “New York values.” Trump, not known for setting an inspiring tone, did just that in celebrating the love expressed by the people of New York in the aftermath of 9/11. A friend told me that Trump’s sentiment reminded him of Dr. Seuss: “The Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day…. and the Grinch found the strength of ten grinches plus two.”
What if that’s the real Donald Trump? What if Donald Trump is really a caring person and this whole “You’re fired!” Apprentice persona obscures something good, deep within. Don’t get me wrong; I know that there is much that obscures the good that is deep within each of us. Something happened in the Garden. But what happened there can be redeemed, and if it is, and if we act on that Grace, we can find the strength of ten grinches plus two.
We need that strength because challenges lie ahead. The climate change challenge was a laugh line at the 2012 Republican convention, but the people who have been flooded out or dried up or burned down or blown away aren’t laughing anymore. Now they seem to be laughing at conservatives, as President Obama got them to do at the State of the Union address when he poked, “You will be pretty lonely,” if you want to continue disputing the science of climate change.
President Obama shouldn’t be surprised that conservatives are looking for something better than his domestic-only, litigation-prone, single-sector, job-killing, leakage-prone Clean Power Plan. Truth be known, the President would probably prefer an economy-wide, worldwide attachment of all costs to all fuels that would spur an energy revolution that could light up the world with cleaner, better, cheaper fuels. But he’s stuck, Republicans are stuck, America is stuck and, therefore, the world is stuck. Someone has to take a risk of showing a little humanity, of showing a little trust in our fellow travelers, of listening to the other side’s needs.
Conservatives need a solution which doesn’t grow government, which trusts in the power of accountable marketplaces to deliver innovation and which empowers individuals in the liberty of enlightened self-interest to make their own decisions. Eureka! Many progressives would happily subscribe to that list of priorities.
In that vein, in lieu of ridiculing skeptics President Obama could have offered a deal to climate realists from both parties. At his State of the Union, he could have said: “We all want to reduce emissions. I realize that conservatives don’t want to grow government, so let’s make the solution revenue-neutral. If we put a tax on carbon dioxide, we can cut taxes in equal amount elsewhere. To get the entire world in on the deal, let’s make the plan border-adjustable so that the same accountability for emissions is imposed on imports. So how about this? Democrats will supply the votes for a carbon tax. You Republicans choose the off-setting income tax cuts.”
If he had offered such a deal, President Obama might find Republicans pushing for a cut in corporate income taxes. More likely, Republicans would settle in on a cut in payroll taxes, thereby avoiding attacks over regressivity. Trading partners would find it in their interest to follow suit because of the border adjustment. The price mechanism would work, proving again the genius of Milton Friedman.
That may sound like a dreamlike sequence of events, but why not dream? Why not dream of a cleaner, freer, more prosperous world? Why not dream of Republicans and Democrats coming together to solve problems rather than lay blame? Why not dream of America leading again?
Dr. Seuss had the Lorax say, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” If we care an awful lot, if we offer a workable solution, if we set aside the pettiness and the blame, our hearts will grow three sizes that day, and Republicans and Democrats will find the strength of us plus you.
U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC4 1993-1999; 2005-2011) directs republicEn.org, a community committed to free enterprise action on climate change.