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GOP in Danger of Losing Younger Generation of Voters Over Climate Policies: Report

"There are a lot of areas where millennials are a bit more progressive than I wish they were."

Congressman Matt Gaetz announces the "Green Real Deal."

Congressman Matt Gaetz announces the "Green Real Deal." (Photo: Gaetz press office)

Republicans may be overplaying their hand with unflinching opposition to the Green New Deal and losing the younger generation of voters. 

That's according to reporting from Politico, which found that some GOP strategists worry that the short term gain of using the public's confusion over the policy and wariness of the cost of restructuring the economy may be offset by the conservative movement becoming alienated from today's youth for years. 

"There are a lot of areas where millennials are a bit more progressive than I wish they were," said Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. "Republicans need to do a better job of speaking to them."

But it's not just millennials. Per Politico:

A recent Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics survey found 74 percent of likely general election voters under 30 disapprove of President Donald Trump's climate change performance and 50 percent call climate change "a crisis" that "demands urgent action." Another 25 percent called it "a problem."

Recent polling (pdf) from CNN, as Common Dreams reported earlier this week, shows that the climate is the most important issue for Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents. Some 96 percent of voters polled cited the crisis as either "very" or "somewhat" important. 

The debate has shifted enough in recent years that decades of Republican resistance to even acknowledging the issue are being cast aside in favor of acceptance. 

"Denying the basic existence of climate change is no longer a credible position," GOP consultant Whit Ayers told The New York Times on Wednesday.

But that doesn't mean Republican lawmakers—other than President Donald Trump, who once said climate change is a Chinese hoax plot to hurt American businesses—are embracing solutions like the Green New Deal. 

"The president is the leading policymaker for better or for worse," said Rory Cooper, a lobbyist with ties to former Republican leadership, "and this is not a priority of his administration."

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Still, Politico reported, there's an opportunity for Republicans, even among younger voters. 

But other polling conducted by the progressive firm Data for Progress revealed some weaknesses the GOP hopes to use to its advantage. Proposals to make all cars electric by 2030 and eliminate fossil fuel production by 2035 are unpopular.

Another factor in the mix of political calculations is that young voters have historically voted in lower numbers. At the same time their turnout ratio increased by 16 points in 2018, and there's reason to believe that uptick will continue next year.

GOP attempts to deliver an alternative to the Green New Deal have been spotty at best. The most concrete retort thus far was legislation from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the Green Real Deal, that provides funding to research the crisis while removing regulations for energy infrastructure.

Gaetz, in April, said that "history will judge harshly" members of the Republican Party who deny the existence of climate change. 

"Similarly, those Democrats who would use climate change as a basis to regulate out of existence the American experience will face the harsh reality that their ideas will fail," added Gaetz. 

The Florida representative, who is a solid Trump ally, also supports abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency. 

No matter what solution the GOP comes to, however, the party is already looking to the future in how it deals with an outcome where the Democrats get their way on climate. 

"If my friends on the other side ultimately get what they want," said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), "they'll probably choke on it politically the way they did healthcare in 2010."

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