The old GOP folks at home: Light-bulb wars

After Mitt Romney’s humiliating defeat in 2012, many pundits explicitly or implicitly agreed with bloger Ted Frier who wrote that the GOP had deteriorated into a party of ” elderly conservative whites who year by year are a shrinking share of the national electorate.” And it’s true. How do I know? The last-ditch war over light bulbs. As a result of legislation passed during he Bush administration, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, incandescent light bulbs that fail to meet higher energy efficiency standards are on the way out. The new standards were phased in, first 100- and 75-watt bulbs bit the dust, and starting this month the popular 60- and 40-Watt bulbs will not be replaced store shelves after they are sold out. Republicans have been fighting this event tooth and nail. There’s been efforts at legislation such as Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-S.C.) bill, H.R. 3818 which attempts to repeal the ban. And now victory of a sort – the new omnibus appropriations bill contains a rider that will defund efforts to enforce the new standards. Of course, American manufacturers have, in anticipation of the new rules, almost completely ceased manufacture of the less efficient bulbs, but, with no prospect of enforcement, such bulbs could conceivably be purchased from foreign suppliers and sold in the U.S. to the folks who just can’t let go.

Stopping the new rules, believe it or not, has been one of the GOP’s leading priorities. When it first came to my attention in 2011, I wrote:

Did you scratch your head when the GOP House, faced with a deteriorating economy, decided to concentrate their energies on light bulb standards a few weeks ago? Did this suggest nothing so much as the crankiness of some of your elderly family members who curse as they try to figure out how to circumvent car seat belts, wax furious when they can’t smoke in restaurants, and carry on about the fools who buy “five-dollar” cups of coffee? …

Yup. You know just who it is who can’t let go. Geezers. I hate to say it because I think – technically at least – I qualify as one, but most of the carpers are undoubtedly geezers. Represented by the GOP, a.k.a. Geezers Only Party.

I noted back in 2011 that there’s more to the great light bulb war than how we get our light. What’s in play is the same impulse Charles Blow was talking about when he wrote that “Republicans are trying to hold back a storm surge of demographic change with a white picket fence.” The GOP plays to a constituency filled with nostalgia for a past that is changing; desperate to hold back a future they don’t understand and fear. Is it any wonder that the future of a GOP so constrained is itself imperiled?