I'm ideologically tilted to the center-right of political discourse, which automatically suggests Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is far to my left. And she is, but I also have to thank her.
The reason I have to thank her is because I'm part of a growing number of conservative voters who believe climate change is exacerbated by human activity that some call the "EcoRight."
Until recently, the Republican Party lacked senior elected leadership to tackle this issue that Democrats had a monopoly on. Well, thanks to the Congresswoman's introduction of the "Green New Deal," I believe some members of my party woke up.
While the deal Democrats have introduced will seriously help cut U.S. carbon emissions — which, along with China contributes nearly 50 percent of global emissions — it has the potential to cost a small fortune, could cost jobs, and will absolutely bloat an already-obese federal government with additional beauracracy, expenses (such as subsidies) and over-regulation.
Poll after poll shows most Americans believe climate change is real. In fact a survey done by Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that even conservatives in the South — who will be among the most impacted — believe the danger is real.
Still, elected officials have misrepresented their constituents.
Until now, that is. Because U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had been a silent proponent of accepting the climate change reality, all of a sudden became a leader. Why? Probably because the senator noticed three factors: AOC's Green New Deal would further bankrupt this country; Democrats have a monopoly on the issue; and he loses nothing from the right, and can pick up independent votes for his reelection bid.
And how can Graham tackle this issue without being called a RINO? Former Upstate Rep. Bob Inglis was and still is criticized for his work — though now he's leading a conservative non-profit called RepublicEn, promoting a fiscally responsible approach to climate change. Or even more recently, Congressman Carlos Curbelo, a founder of the Climate Solutions Caucus, was mocked by his own party for believing in climate change.
Because if you live in the Lowcountry, you know full well the impact of having the Atlantic Ocean on your front lawn, or having to deal with flooding on a sunny day. That means that every politician running for office, from the statehouse to city hall to Congress, will be talking about climate change in one shape or form.
So, what should the Republican counter to AOC's deal be? It's exactly the opposite of a bloated, over-regulated government. Give the American renewable energy industry, which, in my opinion, is the definition of American ingenuity, a level playing field.
Give American enterprises a free market solution to counter the fossil fuels we use now, and not only will we be reducing our carbon footprint, but we will create wealth instead of spending it.
Eliminate subsidies for coal, wind, and everything in between. Tax polluters who emit dangerous cancer-causing chemicals into our environment — believe it or not, that's another subsidy — and when that playing field is even, renewable sources become cheaper for the consumer.
Whether Graham had an epiphany doesn't matter, because any Republican — especially in the Lowcountry — who wants to run for office better come to the realization that climate change is real, and we need to address it with fiscal prudence in mind.
Either way, as a member of the "EcoRight," I'd like to say thank you Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez for scaring the bejesus out of my party.
Rouzy Vafaie is a former Charleston County Republican Party official and serves as a spokesman for RepublicEn.