The necessary idealism of the Green New Deal

The necessary idealism of the Green New Deal

Michelle Goldberg writes:

Amid the unceasing awfulness of the Trump administration, I’ve lately found comfort in the Yale political scientist Stephen Skowronek’s concept of “political time,” which has in turn informed my thinking about the almost utopian ambitions of the Green New Deal.

Surveying the American presidency, Skowronek sees politics unfolding in cycles. Every so often, insurgent coalitions bring an agenda-setting president to power who sweeps away the verities of the old regime, fundamentally restructuring our politics. These “reconstructive presidents,” as Skowronek refers to them, create the political framework that their successors of both parties must operate within.

In time, however, insurgencies calcify into enervated establishments. They become dependent on what Skowronek, in his book “Presidential Leadership in Political Time,” called “sectarian interests with myopic demands.” As the regime’s “political energies dissipate,” he wrote, it becomes an obstacle to addressing the country’s most urgent challenges.

In the resulting atmosphere of crisis and upheaval, a new coalition can bring a new reconstructive president to power. When that happens, Skowronek wrote, governing priorities are “durably recast,” and a “corresponding set of legitimating ideas becomes the new common sense.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a reconstructive president. So was Ronald Reagan. The assumptions of New Deal liberalism governed American politics from 1932 to 1980. The assumptions of the conservative movement have dominated thereafter, though perhaps not for much longer.

Viewed through this schema, Donald Trump’s presidency looks more like the end of a cycle than the end of the Republic. [Continue reading…]

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