CLEVELAND ? Alex Bozmoski brought a lot of Theodore Roosevelt masks to hand out at the Republican National Convention ? 4,500 cardboard outlines of the 26th president’s mustache and round spectacles, topped with the outline of a slouch hat.
Bozmoski’s goal was to “paint the town Teddy” and remind fellow conservatives about the deep roots conservation has in the Republican Party. Roosevelt is often credited with planting the notion as he expanded the national park system and inspired Americans to reflect on the importance of the environment.
The 30-year-old Bozmoski is the director of strategy and operations at RepublicEn, a conservative group that bills itself as “energy optimists and climate realists.” Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), who advocated for climate solutions before he was bounced out of office by a tea party primary challenger in 2010, founded the group in 2014.
But Bozmoski had a hard time getting the Teddy masks to take off. “Two people asked me if this was Robin Williams from Night At the Museum,” he said Monday at a Bloomberg Media event.
The event brought together members of the emerging “eco-right” movement, including representatives from the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, ConservAmerica, the Christian Coalition and Young Conservatives for Energy Reform. This small group of convention attendees wanted to talk about climate change ? even as the party and its nominee actively spurn the issue.
The conservative conservationists offered a number of reasons the GOP shouldcare about climate change, from national security concerns and the potential for developing lucrative clean technologies, to the belief that caring for the planet is a religious imperative.
Among the attendees, there were differences about whether to address “climate change” directly with their fellow conservatives ? or to skip the problem entirely and just talk about solutions.
“Climate change has taken such a far, left-wing feel,” said Angel Garcia of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform. While he’s not sure they will ever get the right fully on board with the idea that climate change is a real threat, they can align on energy independence and national security, he said.
They were universally frustrated that the left has dominated the policy discussion on this issue, in the absence of a visible environmental right.
“We have the answers,” said ConservAmerica president Rob Sisson. “We need to start talking about it, remove that shyness.”
But that sentiment didn’t find the most receptive crowd in Cleveland.
By Wednesday, Bozmoski had all but abandoned the ambition of turning the town Teddy. “I got tired real quick of trying to sell people,” he said. “Now I think our ambition is to try to make as many people aware as possible that there is a home for eco-right conservatives.”
Bozmoski, who is personally in the Never Trump camp and plans to support Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, acknowledged that they probably faced a tough crowd with the Teddy masks. Just look at the the Republican Party platform, which calls for selling off public lands, declares coal “clean” and ignores climate change, or at Donald Trump, who has said climate change is hoax invented by China.
“That is all a little bit nuts… a lot of bit nuts. We’re handing out Teddy faces at a convention for the party that nominated and elected Teddy Roosevelt… And the convention is saying they want to freaking sell all the parks that he started for us,” he said.
“There’s an irony to the Teddy face that really makes me angry.”
By Thursday afternoon, he still had 3,300 Teddy masks. But he said he’s considering it a victory anyway ? even if his group didn’t give all of them away, they connected with several hundred people who were happy to see them at the RNC.
“It’s not trending big, but we’re finding the diamonds in the rough,” he said. “It’s our way of putting a big banner around our face that says if you’re different and you’re ready to lead, help us rebuild our party after this train wreck is over.”