The pragmatism of the radical climate Left

By | December 30, 2020

Kate Aronoff writes:

Even before the 2020 election cycle, centrist Democrats had a habit of portraying leftists and progressives as unflinching ideologues imposing purity tests on their fellow party members. Counter-examples, of course, have abounded. And now there’s a particularly good one in the Georgia runoff election ending January 5.

Politicians and organizations that backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary are now pouring time and resources into electing candidates who have little interest in their platform. Jon Osoff, the Democratic challenger running against Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue, has repeatedly stated his opposition to the Green New Deal. Despite that, thousands of young Sunrise volunteers are phone-banking in the hopes of sending him to Washington.

This isn’t because Ossoff is secretly a “radical liberal.” Rather, it’s because Democrats on the party’s left wing are more practical than the party has ever given them credit for. They understand the stakes of these races for dealing with the climate and a whole host of other pressing crises. Democratic control of the Senate could dramatically shift the bounds of possible policy in the next few years, while Republican control could serve as a hard brake on bills to meaningfully curb emissions.

A rotating cast of supposedly enlightened Republicans continues to tell media outlets that the Senate doesn’t need Democratic control to stop climate change: It just needs centrist cooperation. In a piece published by E&E News last week, former Florida Congressman and Climate Solutions Caucus Chair Carlos Curbelo said that the Biden administration needs to “identify someone or bring someone in who is going to be responsible for reaching out to Republicans. There’s a growing number of Senate Republicans willing to engage.” Who these Republicans eager for a grand bargain on climate are is anyone’s guess—they seldom go on the record themselves.

Reformed former CATO Institute climate skeptic Jerry Taylor, similarly, begged for moderation—i.e., carbon pricing—as an olive branch to free market fundamentalists who apparently need this gesture in order to be willing to help save the planet. “It bodes ill if using market-oriented tools to address climate change are immediately subject to progressive left hostility,” Taylor said. “That doesn’t bode well for the future of this discussion, especially if we’re trying to find some means of gaining bipartisan support.”

There’s little evidence, though, that Republicans are actually interested in taking such measures over the finish line—whatever their ability to actually lower emissions. [Continue reading…]

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