Answering the attacks on the Green New Deal



Critics dismiss it as a dream. But that’s precisely what it is. It’s visionary.

It’s become a common trope of the Trump era for columnists and commentators to attack the lunacy of the far right at the same time as castigating the “loony left.”

These pundits, who usually place themselves in a comfortable “moderate” position, adopt a tone of consummate reasonableness. The president is certainly an idiot, they say, but it would be a mistake to respond with comparable insanity from the other side of the political spectrum.

Much of this pox-on-both-houses commentary focuses its criticism on individuals: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (for being naïve), Rep. Ilhan Omar (for being anti-Semitic), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (for being fast and loose with the facts of her own background), Sen. Bernie Sanders (for being, well, Bernie).

These ad hominem attacks are irritating, but the false even-handedness has been especially disturbing at the level of policy. For instance, the so-called moderates let loose a volley against Trump’s power move to declare a national emergency in order to build his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Then they turn around and blast the progressive vision of a Green New Deal (GND). On the very same opinions page of The Washington Post last week, Max Boot called the GND the “left-wing version of Trump’s farcical promise that he would build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it,” while George Will opined that “President Trump has his wall, the left has its GND.”

Really? Really?!

Okay, I have my own laundry list of ridiculous positions that elements of the American left have taken over the years. But addressing climate change and economic inequality should absolutely be at the very center of any sensible, reasonable political program — left, right, or center. The first is an existential threat to the human race that requires an urgent response in the next dozen years or it’s basically game over for future generations. The second is an endemic problem that, in addition to causing much abject misery, has contributed to political polarization, the rise of dangerous right-wing populism, and the fraying of multilateral institutions.

And Max Boot and George Will compare the Democratic Party’s effort to address these major crises to Donald Trump’s ridiculous “solution” to a threat of his own creation? Talk about false equivalences.

And it’s not just Will and Boot (which, by the way, would make a great name for a right-wing sitcom). In The Washington Post alone, Roger Lowenstein criticizes the GND for being too socialist, Charles Lane argues that the GND cannot be democratic because FDR’s New Deal required a good deal of coercion, David von Drehle lambastes the GND as unrealistic and hyperbolic, Catherine Rampell calls it “lazy sloganeering,” and Megan McArdle piles on with her assessment that it’s “lunatic.”

Ah, the liberal-conservative echo chamber!

This is the mainstream media, mind you, not the Fox NewsDaily CallerLimbaugh axis of inanity. True, there have been a few dissenting voices who have praised the Green New Deal: Eugene Robinson in The Post, Liam Denning at Bloomberg, Al Gore on his own website. But the GND has emerged as the perfect opportunity for anyone who aspires to cultivate what passes for political credibility inside the Beltway to balance their anti-Trump jeremiads with a swipe at the left.

Let’s take a closer look at the GND proposals to see if they are as wildly off base as the Washington consensus suggests.

Reading the GND

The House resolution introduced by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez begins with a summary of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last October. It’s a grim recitation of the costs — physical as well as financial — to the planet if global temperatures rise 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

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