IT TAKES A MOVEMENT
By DAVID JENKINS, REP’S GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS DIRECTOR
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Originally published in the fall 2005 issue of The Green Elephant
We are all aware of Senator Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village, and Senator Rick Santorum’s rejoinder, It Takes a Family. The primary focus of these books is raising children.
For Republicans for Environmental Protection, our focus is growing a greener, more responsible Republican Party. Like raising children, it is a task that requires nurture, discipline and dedication. However, to reform a political party takes something more. It takes a movement.
REP is making a real difference as a vocal, focused and well-connected organization. Like a small insurgency, REP has shown itself capable of winning some battles, but in order to truly transform the Republican Party it must do much more than that. REP must make the transition from being an organization of the disaffected to being the leader of a strong, well-funded movement of rank-and-file Republican voters clamoring for change.
Poll after poll has shown that a large portion of Republican voters value conservation and environmental protection. While we could use more focused polling, the numbers from existing polls show (depending on the specific question) that between 40 and 70 percent support strong environmental protections. Scattered polling has also shown that these Republicans agree with REP on specific issues, even those as politically charged as protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling.
Unfortunately, most Republicans who care about the environment cast their votes based on other issues, thereby allowing GOP leaders and candidates to ignore their environmental values. One of REP’s long-term goals is to make sure that the millions of Republican voters who share its environmental values are informed, engaged, organized and willing to make the environment a decisive issue at the ballot box.
If only 10 percent of Republican voters nationwide were absolutely unwilling to support a candidate with a poor environmental or conservation record, it would have an enormous influence on the party, its elected office holders, and the nation’s environmental polices.
Expanded to 20 or 30 percent, such rank-and-file resolve would completely alter the political landscape, make protecting the environment bipartisan once again and completely reshape our party’s environmental stance. This would largely fulfill REP America’s mission: to restore natural resource conservation and sound environmental protection as fundamental elements of the Republican Party’s vision for America.
Like most worthwhile endeavors, accomplishing that mission will not be easy. The alternative, however, is simply unacceptable. We cannot continue to allow our party leaders to eschew responsible environmental and natural resource policies. We must stop being forced to sacrifice environmental protections, along with our health and quality of life, in order to advance the various other issues that make us Republicans.
If REP is to ignite and lead a successful movement to transform the GOP, its current members and supporters must provide the spark. They must believe in this cause enough to help make it happen, and that starts with building a stronger and bigger REP.
REP is what it is today because it has built a support base of active, informed, dedicated and generous members. But advancing our cause further will require our members to, as chef Emeril Lagasse likes to say, “kick it up a notch.” All REP members need to view themselves as an essential part of REP and invest themselves into ensuring its success.
That means being more than simply a member; it means being a champion for REP and its mission by:
- Constantly promoting REP and its message to other Republicans;
- Actively recruiting new REP members;
- Providing financial support and/or hosting fundraising events;
- Being active with REP at the state level to build and strengthen chapters;
- Staying well informed on environment and natural resource issues;
- Regularly contacting elected officials about key issues;
- Holding your representatives accountable with your vote;
- Recruiting and/or supporting conservation-minded Republican candidates; and
- Being active within the Republican Party as a force for change.
REP has proved that it can make a significant difference with a small but dedicated membership, a bit of money and a few staff members. Imagine a REP with the numbers and resources needed to move even more aggressively forward. Imagine a REP the size of the National Rifle Association or the Sierra Club.
FANNING THE FLAMES
In addition to believing in REP, its mission and the need for REP to lead a national movement to transform the Republican Party, REP members must also believe that the goal is attainable. Our Founding Fathers would not have sacrificed and created this great nation if they had seen British rule as a reality that could not be changed.
Optimism and conviction are contagious and essential to growing a movement. Movements—like social trends, rumors or even the common cold—rely on individuals to spread throughout the population. All REP members should view themselves as agents of change and make it a personal mission to inspire as many fellow Republicans as possible with REP’s vision for the GOP and the nation.
Beyond having a committed and energized membership base, the next step to fomenting a movement is for REP to be able to identify and communicate with large numbers of green Republican voters. Unfortunately, except for our own membership roster, there is no magic list of conservation-minded Republicans. Typical environmental group lists are heavy with Democrats and Independents, while Republican lists include many who are indifferent or even hostile to our mission. Unlike other environmental organizations, we cannot simply rent another group’s list to find a bonanza of new REP recruits.
This problem presents a significant challenge to REP’s ability to engage like-minded Republicans and enlist them in our movement to change the GOP. It also presents the biggest obstacle to membership growth. REP is exploring new ways to identify green Republicans and developing new mechanisms to enable them to identify themselves to us. The “National Registry of Green Republicans” on our website is one example.
To reach out further, REP needs the financial capability to hire mailing list brokers and marketing firms to help us conduct major list development, testing and outreach efforts to identify Republicans who are sympathetic to our mission. Once we are able to identify those Republicans, we can develop well-targeted outreach, education and membership campaigns designed to enlist them in our movement and significantly expand REP’s membership.
We took our first experimental steps in that direction this year, with a direct-mail campaign in Texas that was funded almost entirely by REP members in that state. The Texas Chapter of Republicans for Environmental Protection, which we plan to charter early in 2006, is the most obvious direct result of that campaign… and the harbinger of what we hope will be other successful membership campaigns in the future.
TURNING UP THE HEAT
In addition to identifying and communicating directly with like-minded Republicans, REP and its members must engage in an all-out offensive to win the hearts and minds of greater numbers of our fellow Republicans. That will require a concerted effort to educate and engage Republicans of all stripes, to elevate the importance of environmental issues in their minds, and to increase the public visibility of REP and its Conservation is Conservative message.
With our new C.E.P. Quarterly, REP and its “sister” foundation, ConservAmerica, have already begun to educate conservative GOP decision-makers about environmental and natural resource issues, and about the underlying ideology that informs our positions on these issues. Our full-color booklets—Conservation is Conservative and the brand-new For Spacious Skies: A Conservative Citizen’s Guide to Clean Air—are just the start of a series of well-designed publications aimed at the GOP rank-and-file. These efforts go well beyond The Green Elephant and the press releases, op-eds and other earned media coverage that we have long relied upon to get our message out.
A movement to alter the direction of a political party also requires a capable and extensive political operation. REP needs to be an active player in the development of the 2008 GOP Platform. It must have members well positioned in state and local party organizations, and it must become a political force that green GOP candidates can depend on to get elected.
If better funded and professionally staffed, our affiliated political arms—REP PAC and the REP Conservation Fund—can have a greater impact on Republican primary races and better protect Republican environmental champions from both Republican and Democrat opposition.
A BURNING NEED
Currently, our party is dominated by people and interests that are leading our nation down the road to environmental ruin. As Republicans who care deeply about the environment, we have a responsibility to change our party’s direction on environmental issues and make it a reliable steward of the environment.
Never before has so much rested on REP’s ability to reform the Republican Party. Our nation is in peril because of shortsighted policies that leave us dangerously dependent on oil. Efforts are underway to lift moratoriums on offshore drilling and industrialize our wildlife refuges and other protected areas. All of the landmark environmental protections signed into law by President Nixon are under assault, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
As the nation’s only Republican conservation organization, REP is deployed along the most critical battlefront in the struggle over our country’s environmental direction. Our health, our quality of life and our long-term economic prosperity hang in the balance.
Growing a greener, more responsible Republican Party is in the best interest of the United States of America and its citizens.
To succeed will indeed take a movement, and that will only happen if Republicans for Environmental Protection has the resources and people-power to ignite a fire in the GOP and turn it into a roaring blaze.
Failure cannot be an option.
ORIGINAL 2005 CREDIT: David Jenkins joined the REP staff as Government Affairs Director in January 2005. He has been a member since 2003 and in 2004 volunteered his time and expertise to REP for a variety of projects. Dave brought to REP a wealth of experience in government affairs, grassroots advocacy, environmental/natural resource policy, association management and membership development.
Before working for REP, Dave was Director of Conservation and Public Policy for the American Canoe Association (ACA), a position he had held since 1993. He directed and managed all of ACA’s programs and efforts regarding environmental protection, natural resource policy and government regulations.
Dave is a life-long Republican who until recently served on the Board of Directors of Winter Wildlands Alliance and is an adviser for River Runners for Wilderness. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Furman University in South Carolina. He and his wife, Debbie, live in Alexandria, Virginia.