MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) _ Defeated Oklahoma Congressman Mike Synar is warning environmentalists that they must build political alliances to face the hostile Congress that came out of Tuesday's elections.
At least some of his international audience scorned his advice, saying the political process is getting them nowhere.
"We've come up against the limits of the legislative system," said one forest activist.
"Reprogram yourself and join us," said another.
"I thought I was one of your friends, and I seem like one of the enemies here," Synar responded Thursday with good-natured irony. Nevertheless, most of the 125 or so people in the room applauded him warmly when he concluded his remarks.
Synar, a Democrat and environmentalist who was defeated in the primary election, spoke at the opening of the Temperate Forest Conference at the University of Montana. The conference is sponsored by the Missoula-based Native Forest Network.
"We do not have the minds and hearts of the American people" on many environmental issues, Synar warned. "Until we get broad-based support, we are not going to win on these issues.
"We must engage people in this democracy," he said, noting that only about one in three eligible voters in America actually voted.
Some in the audience noted that Congress passed no significant environmental legislation in the last two years, despite Democratic majorities in the Senate and House, a Democratic president and a vice president who ardently champions the environmental movement.
"Where the rubber meets the road, we have not had the votes" to pass environmental legislation, Synar said. …