It's tempting to self-soothe by telling ourselves that despite how divisive political rhetoric has become, in truth, nothing much has really changed. We still have politicians that prefer a fiscally conservative approach, low taxes and industry-friendly policies that supposedly create jobs. And we have politicians that tend to favor greater oversight and regulation, believe in government spending and higher taxes on industry and wealthy individuals. When the campaigns are over, however, these folks get down to business and find ways to compromise and work towards common goals. While they might not agree on strategic specifics, in truth they're not all that different. Right?
Each year, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) maintains a database of how members of Congress vote on bills of importance to clean air, clean water, clean energy, the health of our forests and oceans, public lands, toxic pollutants and many other issues of importance to conservation and the environment. And each year, members of Congress are scored according to their votes. A score of 100, for instance, indicates that a member voted pro-conservation or pro-environment each and every time they headed to the floor of their chamber, while a score of 0 means that member voted pro-conservation of pro-environment none of the time.
LCV's database goes all the way back to 1971. It's online and available for anyone to search for free. Scores, along with a detailed explanation on why a vote is considered pro or anti-conservation, are available as well.
Given its long history, LCV's database can offer valuable insight on how the legislative and political landscapes have changed over the years.
It depicts a legislative branch that has become increasingly polarized, with skyrocketing numbers of representatives who either exclusively or almost exclusively vote for policies that reduce protections on clean air, clean water and healthy landscape and who vote to advance extreme deregulatory agendas and that put our wilderness, wildlife and public health in jeopardy.
In 1980, there were only 7 senators with annual LCV scores of 0. This past year, in 2017, there were 46. On the House side, that same year in 1980, not a single member compiled a 0 score. In 2017, 124 did.
If those 2017 numbers sound bad, it's because they are. According to LCV, 2017 was record-breaking in a bad way. About its 2017 scorecards, LCV noted that "Senate Republicans hit a record low with an abysmal 1 percent average score, making them the lowest scoring Senate caucus since LCV began tracking environmental votes nearly 50 years ago. House Democrats also broke records by tying their previous average high of 94 percent."
Those stories we tell ourselves about how things haven't really changed, about how they're not really getting worse, about how surely no one wants polluted rivers or streams or dirty air, about how those that seek to transfer federal lands to state hands only want to manage them better, and about how no one, despite the rhetoric, really puts rapacious greed above all?
Tomorrow, we should all vote like we know it.
Find Your Polling Place and Ballot
Visit Vote411.org to look up where to cast your vote and preview your ballot. Be informed on the races you'll be voting on and the candidates you'll be voting for before you head to the polls.
Looking for some more background on national races of important to anglers, hunters, hikers, bikers, skiers and all those that love the outdoors? Be sure to check out our previous coverage of national races you may be voting on tomorrow.
Visit the League of Conservation Voters to view and research the scorecards and voting records of candidates in your state's races. And, if you're voting in state races or are voting on a candidate in a national race that has served in your state legislature, make sure to check with LCV's state-level affiliates for more information on those candidates' records.
Check with The Trust for Public Land to familiarize yourself with have any public land or conservation-related ballot measures in your state.
If you're in Colorado, New Mexico or Wisconsin, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has compiled candidate responses to a questionnaire about their views on issues important to natural resource protection.