The National Wildlife Federation hosted a reception at the posh Curtis hotel in downtown Denver on Wednesday. They called it, I Hunt, I Fish, I Vote Conservation. The whole shindig had a decidedly less liberal feel to it than other DNC events. After all, these were hunters, anglers and the like, who, as Bob Carpenter, pollster for American Viewpoints, pointed out, are predominantly Republican or Independent.
However, Carpenter said, they are willing to swing to the left if it will help slow global warming and protect habitat for the game they pursue. He said that his polling indicates that hunters are conservative, vote in large numbers and more than half of them are undecided about who they'll vote for in November. Forty-seven percent of his respondents believe that "gun rights are important, but conservation is just as important," says Carpenter.
That point was driven home by Rep. John Dingell, D-MI. Dingell, 62, was born in Colorado, rangered at Rocky Mountain National Park, and is the longest serving member of the House of Representatives. He's also a champion of environmental causes (he wrote the Clean Air Act and helped pass the Endangered Species Act). Like the other speakers at the reception, Dingell likes his guns. But he'll support a presidential candidate who doesn't get stellar marks from the NRA as long as it means getting past the bad environmental policies of the last administration.
"These have not been a good eight years," Dingell said. "The Clean Water Act has been under attack. Roads are being built in roadless areas just to show that they can build them."
Of course, he's already a Democrat. Tony Dean, a "lifelong Roosevelt Republican" and the host of an outdoor television program, didn't say who he'd vote for, but hinted that he'd swing to the Democrats' side if they devised a bold energy program that addresses global warming and pushes clean, renewable energy. ("If anyone knows when the start date of clean coal is," he joked, referring to billboards, placards, and other public relations appearing almost everywhere during the Convention, "please let me know."
And David Crockett, grandson of Davy Crockett, wasn't about to be appeased by the usual platitudes being passed around Denver this week. "Everyone who's running for any office anywhere," he said, "will have an energy speech and a climate speech ready to deliver. It will not be enough to pass a climate bill, however. It will not be enough to pass a climate policy. It will take a maga massive effort to help wildlife adapt in the next 20 years."
The takeaway message for Democrats? You can have the vote of the sportsmen, but you'd better get serious about conservation and energy policy to get it. Oh, and you'd best not mess with our guns.