MSNBC contributor Michael Steele has written an article in The Dispatch urging the GOP to embrace climate activism as a winning political strategy. Yet the lesson of the 2018 midterms is Republican climate activism is political suicide, not electoral salvation.

Heading into the 2018 midterm elections, 43 Republicans were part of the congressional Climate Solutions Caucus (CSC), a group describing itself as “for members to discuss climate solutions and to work on climate legislation.” CSC members emphasized that Republican climate activism would be essential for political success, and that Republicans who did not embrace climate activism would get punished in subsequent elections.

Yet, the central lesson from the bloodbath the GOP suffered in the 2018 midterm elections was this: If you were a Republican Climate Solutions Caucus member, you likely lost. If you were any other Republican or Democratic incumbent, you almost certainly won.

Only 83% of Republican House seats remained Republican after the 2018 midterms. However, 91% of Republicans who were NOT part of the Climate Solutions Caucus kept their seats Republican. By contrast only 49% – less than half – of Republicans who embraced climate activism and joined the CSC lost their seats. In a particularly humiliating blow, CSC co-founder Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) was among the GOP’s 2018 election casualties.

Republicans who held true to sound science and their conservative base fared well in the 2018 midterms. Republicans who tried to appease the Left on climate change gained few Democratic votes, depressed their base, and got shellacked.

Michael Steele’s MSNBC cohorts are hoping for a 2020 repeat of Republican members of Congress embracing climate activism and then getting shellacked in their elections.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is managing editor of Environment & Climate News and a research fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute. Burnett worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis for 18 years, most recently as a senior fellow in charge of NCPA’s environmental policy program. He has held various positions in professional and public policy organizations, including serving as a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Task Force in the Texas Comptroller’s e-Texas commission.

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