Editor’s note: This letter is a direct response to “Calling all Conservatives,” a letter to the editor from Salem resident James Tweed that was printed in last week’s issue.
Submitted by Dr. Michael L. Bentley, Salem resident
The headline for James Tweed’s letter in your last edition caught my attention. While I’ve never been a Republican, in many respects I have conservative values. Mr. Tweed goes on to scold, justifiably in my opinion, the majority of Republicans who remain loyal followers of former President Trump despite his continual promotion of the Big Lie that he won the 2020 election. Mr. Tweed finds the Grand Old Party now lacking in “a moral core grounded in reality.” From the Jan. 6th Capitol Riots hearings that I’ve been watching, that certainly seems to be the case. He says he is no fan of Joe Biden. Neither am I, especially in his massive military spending and neocon foreign policy, which is why I’m an independent. I now support individual candidates who share my political values and will represent them in office, such as Roanoke’s Sam Rasoul, and Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, though I can’t vote for them.
Getting back to conservatice values, however, I wish the GOP would rediscover its early conservation values. Conserving the good earth, its forests, soils, waterways and wetlands, were championed by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and the great Gifford Pinchot. And even Nixon signed the EPA into law and now the Republican Supreme Court has gutted it. But, yes, once upon a time, the GOP was green! It was America’s leading pro-conservation and pro-environment party. Through most of the 20th Century, it was normal for Republican leaders to be real conservationists and real environmentalists. There’s nothing more fundamentally conservative than conservation!
But now, in the 21st Century, things are not quite the same. The Republican Party has strayed far from its roots in this regard, and in so many others, becoming now the party of oil and gas extraction and consumption and of letting the polluters foul our soils and waters, shoot wolf cubs in their dens, and block every effort to address the climate/biodiversity crisis. Take our new governor. He has appointed former Trump EPA head Andrew WHeeler to head the deregulation office that he created. Wheeler is gearing up to go after environmental regulations in the Commonwealth, and he’s a guy who has focused his life’s work on letting extractive industries go hog wild. And take our new Salem representative in Congress, Ben Cline. Just last week I was on a Zoom meeting with several other members of the Citizens Climate Lobby talking to his legislative aide, a Ms. Stooks. Sadly, Mr. Cline is no conservative of the type I value. Quoting his April 21 newsletter, he says, “I am a supporter of an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy to meet the current global energy need. Wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, natural gas, renewable nanotechnologies, and fossil fuel usage should all be encouraged, and I am optimistic that consumers will have clea, safe, and reliable choices well into the future.” He is aware that greenhouse gasses emitted from burning fossil fuels accelerate climate change, but he won’t propose, co-sponsor or vote for legislation such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
So, as Mr. Tweed, a Republican himself, recognizes as he concludes his letter, there are a lot of RINOS (Republicans in Name Only) out there who truly are not conservatives.