Mixed success in the push for a Green New Deal

By | November 17, 2019

Robinson Meyer writes:

Maybe Jeff Bezos, of all people, put it best. Asked whether he supported the Green New Deal, the chief executive of one of the country’s most carbon-intensive technology companies waved the question off.

“There are a lot of different ideas for what the Green New Deal is,” he said, “and it’s probably too broad to say too much about that in particular.”

It was a dodge, of course, but not an inaccurate one. Because, really, who does know what the Green New Deal is? Yesterday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders announced what they said was the first part of that vision, a “Green New Deal for Housing.” Their $172 billion plan would retrofit a million public-housing units while eliminating 5 million tons of annual carbon pollution. Exactly a year earlier, dozens of young climate activists occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill, and Ocasio-Cortez, barely a week off her election, came to speak with them. Their demand: a special House committee to create something they called a Green New Deal.

For the climate movement, the protest seemed electrifying, the start of a new epoch. The Green New Deal, long on the hazy fringes of the policy debate, rocketed to its center. It marked a change for Pelosi, too, who could no longer count on playing the clenched-fist drum major of the Resistance. Now, back in power and with a majority to protect, she could once again be a target of protest.

The protest wasn’t against Pelosi per se, but a year on it’s clear that Pelosi won, and the Sunrise campaign lost. There isn’t a special House committee on the Green New Deal. (There is a new House committee, sure, and a Democrats-only Senate group, but they both focus on the more generic “climate crisis.”) Nor has the larger Green New Deal movement racked up obvious, substantive wins since. It has aimed for billionaires but felled “farting cows.” It has talked up, and then mostly talked down, the ideas of a federal jobs guarantee and Hamiltonian industrial policy. In March, a resolution praising it was decisively defeated, 57–0, during a show vote in the Senate.

And yet, a year later, the fact is unavoidable: The Green New Deal has won. Just as punk was dead by 1978, but every guitar-optional song since has been labeled “post-punk,” the Green New Deal has reshaped the terms of the endeavor. Its brand, you might say, is just too strong. That is because it named something real. [Continue reading…]

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