Remember when Bobby Schilling was a Tea Partier?

I have to give credit to Illinois Congressman Bobby Schilling and his campaign team. They’ve put in a great effort to transform his image from an ultra-conservative Tea Party Congressman to a sensible moderate. I’ve noticed the change of tone in his public statements and Facebook page, where he often posts about bipartisanship.

Of course, even the most bitterly partisan Republican members of Congress are touting bipartisanship this election season, as if they hadn’t spent the last two years making the defeat of Barack Obama their #1 priority over helping the economy recover. Schilling is running in a newly drawn Democratic-leaning district against Cheri Bustos.

Reading news about the campaign reminded me of a forum I attended last year with the old, unreformed Schilling. Back then, he still opposed high speed rail, and even the extension of Amtrak service to the Quad Cities.

When I spoke with Schilling afterward he denied the scientific consensus behind climate change. Then he suggested that he has a lower carbon footprint than me because he uses E-85 ethanol. I’m glad he’s thinking about that, but, well, I don’t think he knows how much I’ve done to lower my carbon footprint. When I brought up deadly pollution from coal plants he brought up cow farts. Seriously. You can read more at my blog post about the forum.

It’s hard for me to understand what motivates grown adults like Schilling to deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are contributing to climate change and that we must take immediate action. Is it ideological zealotry? A willingness to serve the coal and oil industry against the public interest? Or, do they know better but are afraid to anger the talk-radio Republican base? Whatever the reason, one of the top election issues this year is whether we’ll have an anti-science Congress, or one that chooses to live in the reality-based community.

© 2012 Willinois. This article is reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.