Growing pressure in support of the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is drawing more support as it becomes better known and is generating activism. Eoin Higgins writes that senator Diane Feinstein is not the only politician feeling the heat from young people who are taking up the cause because they feel that it is their lives that are being sacrificed by politicians who grovel before the fossil fuel industry. They are taking aim at the rationale being offered by timid Democratic politicians like Feinstein for not signing on.

The main rhetorical device that Democratic skeptics of the Green New Deal have been employing begins with a confident assertion that they believe in climate science and that the crisis must be taken seriously, and they admire the ambition of the Green New Deal. But, they add, the resolution just can’t pass a Republican Senate or be signed by President Donald Trump.

By asserting their support of the broad principles undergirding the policies while rejecting the actual nuts and bolts of the legislation, Democrats are trying to have it both ways: keeping rhetorically in tune with the desires of the base but protecting the interests of the party’s powerful establishment donor class in their actions.

What these people don’t realize is that people in general, and young people in particular, are inspired and energized by bold proposals. They sense that the incrementalist approach of establishment politicians is a way of delaying meaningful action. They know that ideas like those in the GND are ambitious but they want politicians to take a stand.

On Sunday night, Ocasio-Cortez responded to Feinstein, saying on Instagram Live and repeating later on Twitter that “Climate delayers are the new climate deniers.”

“I don’t think that working on an issue for 30 years alone is what makes someone qualified to solve an issue,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Instagram. “That said, there are a lot of people that have been doing this work for decades that have proposed ambitious solutions for years and have not been listened to.”

Ocasio-Cortez said that politicians who aren’t proposing ambitious solutions are harming the effort. “If you think a carbon tax alone is going to fix climate change, you’re part of the problem,” she said. We basically need to propose a solution on the scale and of the magnitude of the problem. We have one shot. … To be very frank, people didn’t try. For 30 or 40 years, they wrung their hands and said it’s too complex. And now people are dying.”

It is not just Democratic politicians who are being targeted. Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell’s office has also been besieged by hundreds of young people demanding that he support the GND, leading to dozens being arrested.

Lily Gardner, a 15-year-old high school student in Kentucky, said she was there to ask McConnell to back the Green New Deal and “to look us in the eye and explain to us why the $1.9 million he has taken from the fossil fuel corporations are more important than my future, my community’s lives.”

McConnell, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. The demonstration ended with the young protesters singing “which side are you on?” Shortly after, Capitol Police gave the crowd several warnings before arresting dozens of members of the group and escorting them out of the building.

Higgins says that those ‘moderate’ Democrats may be seriously misreading the mood of the party, the way they did before on the living wage or Medicare For All or same-sex marriage before they suddenly realized that this was what people wanted. He said that a new congressperson was one of those who got pushback at a town hall meeting.

Rep. Antonio Delgado, the freshman from New York’s 19th District, was pressed repeatedly by constituents over his half-hearted support for the effort.

If the reaction to Delgado’s decision to avoid supporting the Green New Deal in his rural, majority white, purple district is an indication of the mood of the electorate, then Democrats running on a more centrist or right-wing platform in the next election may be in danger.

Akiva Hirsch, who asked Delgado about supporting the Green New Deal during the town hall, told The Intercept that given the severity of the problem of climate change, and the possibility of irreversible catastrophe in only a decade, Delgado’s response was insufficient. Hirsch and a group of friends from Bard College, which is in Delgado’s district, told The Intercept that they were registered voters in the district.

As Mehdi Hasan writes,

The Green New Deal is extremely popular and has massive bipartisan support. A recent survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University found that a whopping 81 percent of voters said they either “strongly support” (40 percent) or “somewhat support” (41 percent) the Green New Deal, including 64 percent of Republicans (and even 57 percent of conservative Republicans).

Now a group known as 500 Women Scientists, that has been signed on to by 20,000 women of STEM and supporters from more than 100 countries, have come out in support of the science saying that Scientists Must Speak Up for the Green New Deal. They elaborate under the following headers.

The GND is rooted in science.

The GND is ambitious and solutions-oriented

The GND is centered around people and justice.

The GND is changing perceptions of what a climate activist looks like

Their article goes on to make recommendations for what scientists can do

Recognize that science and scientists do not exist in a vacuum

Work with communities to help identify climate impacts and define solutions

Support and promote movements led by marginalized groups

Advocate for science-based solutions across levels of government

Another labor-based group known as the Labor Network for Sustainability has put out a paper titled 18 Strategies for a Green New Deal: How to Make the Climate Mobilization Work whose details are summarized by Jeremy Brecher here.

John Kennedy’s goal of putting a person on the moon within 10 years has become a cliché for thinking big but it does have a lesson. It was seen as highly ambitious, absurd even, but yet got done. People like Feinstein would have said that Kennedy was being unrealistic and that we should instead aim for a small satellite in space and then slowly build up the program. The big difference between the moon program and the GND is that the moon program had important military goals and served the needs of the military–industrial complex and so pro-military, pro-big business politicians like Feinstein would have found a reason to sign on, reasonableness be damned.


  1. says

    I was reading a rather lame response to GND on Slate(I think it was) in which the author claimed that cap and trade would take care of it. Like, as they said, it did for acid rain. Too bad they apparently didn’t realize that the clean air act did not depend on cap and trade; it regulated the start of new emitters and forced existing emitters to abate to a scaling standard.

    It’s interesting to me that there appear to be a lot of people who want to just kick the can down the road and let market forces take care of everything. CO2 clouds are kind of like the “invisible hand of the market” come to think of it.

  2. says

    When you’re on a sinking ship, it’s not time to be incrementalist about trying to find something that will float.

    The democrats are the other half of a nasty nasty duopoly; they’re not friends of the people and they’re not going to listen unless they are forced to. Just because Trump is a glaring pimple of horribleness, it doesn’t mean that the democrats are progressives in anything but their marketing literature. Some people see Trump as a republican-centric outsider revolutionary; the democrats are ripe for theirs and we’re all sitting around hoping it won’t be someone as bad. I’m skeptical of Bernie and Elizabeth Warren; they’re not radical enough -- they’re insiders who’ve been compromising to get along with the system for a long time. They’re part of the system. Blowing the system up hasn’t worked very well, though. Checkmate the people.

  3. says

    I’m no millennial but I’m in favor of (at bare-ass minimum) the GND because I don’t living with the certainty that billions of people are going to die from climate change. It’s like watching the nazis come to power while knowing you can’t do shit about it, knowing the Holocaust is coming. The media ain’t telling it like it is. Millennials aren’t feeling some hippy-dippy earth love like when we invented Earth Day in the 90s or whatever. They’re feeling mortal peril.

  4. lanir says

    Government generally doesn’t fund the whole project when shifts like this are needed. They offer incentives* to get the ball rolling and then the whole industry adapts to follow the leaders. Or they just regulate and heavily penalize any companies trying to circumvent the new rules. I think in practical terms the former approach is appropriate for industries with thin margins that might struggle to transition otherwise while the latter is absolutely the approach needed for highly profitable industries like the fossil fuel industries.

    Personally I don’t need this but if you must have a national security reason to justify the Green New Deal, think about this. If we found ourselves in a conflict with China, either cold war style or with bullets flying, we would be screwed. Currently most of our electronics comes from there. If left alone, they’ll also own the energy sector because their air pollution problem scared some influential people and they did a 180 from their old ways to invest big in solar and renewable energy. Think about a world where China owns both the technology sector and the energy sector of most of the world’s economy and can probably justify going to war with heavy polluters who don’t buy in. And generate worldwide support for it.

    * By this I mean real incentives. As in, “you do something and I’ll pay you.” Very much NOT the usual “here, just take this money no strings attached” we usually see in corporate incentives.

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