It is painful to watch. A politician who you’re quite sure doesn’t believe in manmade climate change is asked a question pertaining to that subject. Rather than admit he or she is skeptical about the theory the politician dodges and weaves.

“First, we must make sure our policies are based on sound science,” the politician responds. “Regarding climate change, we need to make sure our actions will actually have the impact we are aiming for and we must weigh the impact of those actions against possible negative unintended consequences regarding the economy.”

Putting it bluntly, this type of response is in code. When properly interpreted it means the politician probably doesn’t believe in manmade climate change and doubts that the draconian environmental policies being put in place to battle it would do any good even if he or she did believe in it. Assuming this interpretation is correct, it is fair to ask why the politician didn’t just say: “I don’t believe in manmade climate change.”

The answer is that the politician didn’t want to borrow trouble.

It is likely that he or she was advised that polls show environmental issues – which unfortunately now tend to be dominated by manmade climate change dogma – rank low on voters’ priority lists. Armed with this information, the reasoning of a large percentage of political advisors is that the manmade climate change debate isn’t worth losing votes over.

Their advice would be: “Avoid offending voters who strongly (arguably religiously) believe in manmade climate change. Arguments against it (regardless of validity) aren’t likely to change anyone’s mind, so there are no votes to be gained and a lot that might be lost by a politician who reveals he or she doesn’t believe in it.”

Politicians who don’t believe in manmade climate change have approached the issue in this manner since the 1990s. This tactic of avoidance has given politicians who espouse manmade climate change a virtual open field for politically exploiting the topic. They have been able to spout climate change alarmism without fear of direct refutation by political opponents. In addition, by refusing to dispute manmade climate change rhetoric, politicians who don’t believe in the theory have helped the left falsely portray the dogma as “settled science” that is accepted by all but a small segment of the public.

Generally speaking the effort to expose manmade climate change as a phony and flimsy theory takes place within our culture, not within the political sphere. Open political debate on this issue is badly needed; but in its place we’ve witnessed one side given free reign because the politicians who should provide an opposing viewpoint shirk their responsibility to do so.

This is how the monster we see today, the lunatic regulations and the hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidized fraudulent green energy schemes, was permitted to grow to proportions few envisioned only two decades ago.

Sidestepping issues might be tempting. It might even be part of a short-term winning formula, but the long-term consequences usually outweigh short-term gains. Politicians who refuse to stand up for what they believe in reveal contempt for the voters. This is especially so when their sidestepping of issues breaks promises they made as candidates to: “say what I think and let the chips fall where they may.”

Climate change is only one of the issues over which conservative-leaning politicians almost systematically fail to counter left wing arguments. In the supposed War on Women politicians who claim to support free markets seem incapable of contradicting allegations founded on the most superficial of premises. For example: claims that data shows women in the workplace earn less than men for doing the same jobs.

This charge is based on willfully shallow researching of the data. Digging deeper into the available data reveals that cultural factors play the key role in this apparent disparity, not gender bias practiced by employers in the free market. One factor is that a higher percentage of women choose professions that offer rewards other than high monetary return than is the case with men. Another factor is that women have a greater tendency to leave the workforce for periods of time, to have and raise children or to pursue other interests.

Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University has pointed out that data clearly shows women with comparable work experience and educational achievement earn slightly more on average than their male counterparts.

None of this is new information; Sowell has been speaking and writing about what a deeper look into the data reveals for decades. But, do politicians cite these facts to counter their opponent’s claims? No, instead they usually just look like deer caught in headlights; mumbling that they favor equal pay for equal work and hoping the discussion moves on to another topic.

The results of the past two presidential elections should have served as an object lesson for politicians who profess to be economic conservatives. Refusing to confront issues head-on can be like ingesting a slow-acting poison; though delayed, the effect can be fatal. Yes, in politics there are times when a tactical retreat might be advisable. However, when retreating and avoiding issues becomes too habitual it can lead to ultimate surrender.

Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Capitol Confidential, an online newsletter associated with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP). MCPP provides policy analysis. The political analysis represented in this column does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mackinac Center.