Philip Klein – Washington Examiner July 12, 2019
In fairness, the Green New Deal always read like socialist fanfic, so it’s hard to argue that a totally unrealistic idea with narrow support could actually be “killed.” But whatever chance there was for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s big initiative to win over skeptics went poof when her chief of staff said the quiet part out loud: the Green New Deal is not primarily about addressing the climate crisis, but about replacing America’s capitalist economy with a more socialist one.
A glowing Washington Post profile of Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti opens with a meeting that he had with Sam Ricketts, the climate director for Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who launched a long-shot 2020 presidential bid centered around a sweeping climate change plan.
The article reports:
Chakrabarti had an unexpected disclosure. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
The Green New Deal has always rested on deception. Ocasio-Cortez and her backers have argued that we are facing catastrophic emergency and that if we don’t act immediately the looming devastation will be unavoidable. But at the same time, the plan is a wish list of ideas that American socialists would be pushing regardless of the climate issue, and they are in no way necessary to address the global emergency: free college, more union jobs, free healthcare for all, economic security, and “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”
The resolution on the Green New Deal, by the way, was co-sponsored by six 2020 presidential candidates: Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar.
Ocasio-Cortez and her allies are of course free to make the case for why the U.S. should move toward a socialist economy. But they don’t get to use the pretext of a global emergency to do so. You can make a case that scientists have warned of disastrous consequences without action to curb carbon emissions, and try to shame those who are blocking action. But it’s another thing to define “serious action on climate change” as requiring people to embrace AOC’s economic vision.
What’s fueled climate change skepticism — or denialism, as liberals would put it — is the belief that liberals are just using it as an excuse to implement their economic agenda. Chakrabarti has provided critics with more ammunition to say, “See, we told you so.”
In the profile, Chakrabarti makes the argument that the resurgent socialist Left has a different “theory of change” from traditional liberals and centrists within the party.
“The whole theory of change for the current Democratic Party is that to win this country we need to tack to the hypothetical middle,” he explained. “What I think that means is, you don’t take unnecessary risks, which translates to: You don’t really do anything. Whereas we’ve got a completely different theory of change, which is: You do the biggest, most badass thing you possibly can — and that’s going to excite people, and then they’re going to go vote. Because the reality is, our problem isn’t that more people are voting Republican than Democrat — our problem is most people who would vote Democrat aren’t voting.”
The errors the AOC crowd makes are to 1.) Overestimate the appeal of radical ideas in practice; 2.) Fail to recognize that national polling does not matter in House and Senate races in more conservative areas.
But even if they could somehow get past these two barriers and magically elect a socialist president, a socialist majority in both chambers of Congress, eliminate the filibuster, and pass the Green New Deal — there’s the implementation issue. That is, the proposal calls for a decadeslong economic mobilization. Never in the history of the U.S. has one party controlled all levers of power in Washington for decades. So anything remotely close to the Green New Deal would inevitably be rolled back when Republicans inevitably take power.
If anything is going to be done to address climate change, it will have to be done in a way that’s much more narrowly focused on addressing the issue and that has a lot broader support.