I remember when conservatives used to actually believe in conserving things. Like money. And nature. My mother, an ardent Republican, was one of those old-time conservatives.
She was frugal. She was an environmentalist before that word came into fashion. Remembering the Great Depression (she was born in 1912), my mother hated to waste anything.
For a long time, "conservative" and "conservation" almost meant the same thing. A 2015 Think Progress piece talked about this in Republican Politicians are Betraying Their Party's Legacy of Conservation.
“You’re worried about what man has done and is doing to this magical planet that God gave us, and I share your concern. What is a conservative after all, but one who conserves?” — President Ronald Reagan
When Ronald Reagan uttered those words, he was drawing on a conservative legacy of environmental protection — one that more Republicans appear to be embracing today. You wouldn’t realize it listening to the current crop of White House hopefuls, but some of the greatest conservationists ever to take the oath of office were Republicans.
Teddy Roosevelt created the National Park System. George H.W. Bush passed a cap-and-trade program to curtail acid rain. Richard Nixon arguably did more than almost any president of either party to safeguard our air, water and wildlife. Nixon formed the Council on Environmental Quality, created the EPA and signed the Clean Air Act. Both Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists rated him our greenest president ever.
So how do our local conservatives here in Salem stack up on the "conserve" front? Not very well, judging by the battle lines on the Third Bridge (or Salem River Crossing) front.
This half-billion dollar bridge across the Willamette River (it would cost much more if financing costs are included) is avidly supported by the Salem Chamber of Commerce, a bastion of what passes for conservatism these political days.
The Third Bridge also is high on the wish list of the more conservative members of the Salem City Council: Mayor Chuck Bennett plus councilors Brad Nanke, Steve McCoid, and Jim Lewis. The five progressives on the Council oppose the bridge: Tom Andersen, Cara Kaser, Chris Hoy, Sally Cook, and Matt Ausec.
Thus it is the so-called "conservatives" in this town who want to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on the Salem River Crossing, since there are alternative ways of relieving rush hour congestion that cost far less than a shiny brand new bridge that would require a $1.50 each way toll to help pay for it -- plus increases in the local gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
And the Third Bridge would be harmful environmentally. It would intrude on the Willamette River Greenway and Wallace Marine Park, while adding to Salem's greenhouse gas emissions.
Hmmmm. How is it that Salem conservatives are so loath to conserve money and natural resources, while it is the liberals who want to be unliberal with taxes/tolling that would need to be imposed on the citizenry to pay for the bridge?
The answer seems to be that supporters of the Third Bridge tend to be big-spending conservatives, while opponents are frugal liberals -- of which I'm proud to be one.