2019, pre-COVID, I had been looking forward to an election season where the
Green New Deal as the centerpiece of a platform from which to defeat Trump and
his GOP enablers with. I see it as a 2-for-1 package where you can both save
the planet and strategically jam an 800-pound needle right into where the
neo-fascist right is at their most vulnerable at the same time.
Trump’s steadfast denial of the climate crisis, marginalization of scientific
experts and rollback of environmental protections is perhaps the area where his
actions (not rhetoric) are most out of step with the positions of voters (plus
COVID putting this on fast forward).
Notice how the
far right’s pundits and campaigners can talk on and on about their favorite
wedge issues like guns, abortion and immigration. Yet the ever-worsening
climate crisis is the one topic in particular which they have nothing to say
about other than to pretend that it does not even exist in the first place and
try to awkwardly change the subject. This is an admission where they are
vulnerable. It is the same reason why the Fox News crowd has been working
overtime to smear the Green New Deal out of existence, because it would put
them on the defensive.
If we had a
Green New Deal campaign that was robust enough to set the narrative for what
the election issues are, then it would force the far right to answer for key
questions on climate which would send them into a profound crisis. The far and
neo-fascist right are so wholly unequipped to rise to this challenge of climate
Predictably, this year’s RNC, made no
mention of global warming – it all fell behind an “Oil-Well-ian” veil of
silence. In actuality, polls show solid support for regulating CO2 emissions,
even among Republican Voters. Concern for Climate hasn’t gone away just because
COVID happened. We have seen a surge in young Republicans worried about our environment.
Yes, there are young self-identified conservatives too who actually place some
importance on the issue.
A POWERFUL NARRATIVE
But where credit
is due. the Neo--fascist right has been able to channel international
discontent over neo-liberal economic globalization into political success at
the nation-by-nation level in a way the global left has thus far failed to
match. The neo-fascist right has had a simplistic story to offer that can be
effectively replicated across so many nations. It is the story that there is
some “great replacement” where some group of invading minorities are usurping
the privileges of the pre-existing dominant group, at the behest of the
What we saw
in 2018 with the international school climate strikes in favor of the Green New
Deal provides the framework that could defeat this new right global-scale
narrative. If a global Green New Deal is given a chance, it will create
enormous numbers of well-paying jobs and thus concretely benefit populations
who were left behind by the relentless rush toward economic globalization. The
progressives can use the Green New Deal to champion infrastructure financing,
job retraining, and targeted subsidies for green industries. That would be a
way to win back voters disillusioned by neoliberalism. This new narrative would
undermine the new right’s anti-globalist rhetorical appeals while offering up a
positive vision to rally around across many nations.
important to adopt the language of young people and tap into their grievances
before the far right gets to them. May Boeve of 350.org speaks to how the climate
strikes had been a good vehicle for that. “To have very young people publicly
shaming political leaders for doing nothing has struck a moral chord now that’s
really quite powerful.
vision that is apocalyptic and critical without the positive narratives that
give hope will not win against a ‘Make America Great Again’ type message.
racial, and religious minorities occupy an important priority among progressives
because their opponents in the far right have turned them into scapegoats. The
Green New Deal can also serve as a power strip that these corresponding social
movements can plug into- immigrant rights, the women’s movement, anti-racism
A chief problem is that activism needs
activists and we lack any international institutions that can employ or
otherwise support the activists on the scale that is needed, with one likely exception.
Labor Unions are the strongest institutional power base which could do so. But
as the institutional powerbase of labor unions has gradually eroded, working
class and blue-collar middle-class voters started to feel anxiety about their
declining status. This anxiety about declining status was, in turn, a great
predictor of support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. From this
standpoint it is understandable how the narrative put forth by new right has
resonated most strongly in rural areas and small towns that have not benefitted
from recent economic growth as much as the more culturally liberal and
cosmopolitan urban centers.
political establishment only allows a centrist opposition to the new right and
uses institutional inertia to blocks a progressive left response to the new
right at every turn, then how can we uproot the problem?
opposition to the new right is defined as proposing watered-down versions of
the same neoliberalism that is only narrowly differentiated from what the
establishment center-right offered. Such an approach may have been relevant in
earlier times, but it outdated now given how we could have a more convincing
message on protecting people from the harsher side of free market system.
transnational left has been good at publishing manifestos, issuing laundry
lists of demands and creating policy papers. But that is no substitute for getting
more adept at telling stories that are linked to a vision, connecting at an
emotional level which touches people’s hearts as well as minds, and boiling
down sometimes complex ideas down into simple messages. “America first (or fill
in the blank nation first)” is a prime example of what encapsulates the shared story
and vision among the new right. It begs a positive alternative narrative that
combines messages of hope and urgency while mobilizing people of different backgrounds
under a common banner. Because the new right is tapping into primordial fears
and hatreds, we need to make a visceral analysis. The people we need to
persuade to come over to our side don’t have time to read long documents. Perhaps
it is necessary to communicate a paradigm shift into a sound bite in order to
what does the opposition say against the Green New Deal?
Even before the Green New Deal became a
household phrase, the opponents of Green New Deal type policies used a
particular rhetorical sleight-of-hand.
It was a sort of binocular trick of
feigning crocodile tears over all the lost jobs in established industries while
turning a blind eye to the much greater job creation power of green jobs that
could be created if the GND were given a chance.
We saw it during
the RNC when speakers did not seem to mention the topic of environment at all
except when playing their latest episode of cynical jobs-versus-environment
The jobs-creation capability of these
clean and renewable sectors has overpowered that of fossil fuels by a factor 3
to 1. So, in terms of substantive policy discussion the conspirators against
the GND had to find some other bugaboo to latch onto.
Their newer rhetorical sleight-of-hand is
to simply claim the price tag of the GND is simply too high and that we can’t
afford it. But this is another binocular trick which involves turning a blind
eye to the far more astronomical costs we face if the powers-that-be deny us
transformational action to get GHG emissions under control. In this case,
austerity means extinction.
Whenever the “can't-do” opponents try to
wave fear of financing as their excuse to say no, it is a red herring intended
to divert attention away from the true issue at hand. The real issue at hand
with funding the Green New Deal is to shift the burden of underwriting the
transition onto those who are most responsible for creating the problem in the
first place, onto those who profit from using the atmosphere as a free dumping
ground. Going after the profits of those most responsible for the mess can be accomplished
via legal damages, higher royalties, having their subsidies slashed, a
transaction tax, and shutting down tax havens. Whenever a propagandist shrill
tries to put a chill on having public discussion on the GND, those
accountability measures just mentioned are the possibilities which these
elitist mouthpieces do not want to be on the table for consideration. Let me
emphasize, those conspiring against the GND are the real elitists, not the ones
who are campaigning for it!
As scary as such a discussion would be
for a small group of narrow-interest elites, the GND will be catharsis and
provide a sense of relief for a far more, particularly for young people. The
biggest obstacle is hopelessness and a feeling that it’s all too late.
Mobilizing for a Green New Deal would inspire hope by providing something to be
in favor of, not just something to rail against.
Centrism brings a bit more insidious and
sideways type of challenge to the GND principles. The Thomas Freidman sort of
centrist approach considers the economic and social justice components of the
GND to be add-ons to the more immediate, objective and narrowly-focused
priority for making emissions cuts.
Those who share this approach often
presume that calls for economic and social justice would make an already hugely
uphill battle against intransigent conservatives an even harder political sell
than it currently is. That is rooted in the old assumption that change in
general has to be as minimal and unchallenging to the big donor establishment as
possible for efforts to get emissions reductions to not to be sabotaged
But social and economic justice is precisely
what lifts the GND. Excluding the vectors of social and economic justice is
what led to some recent and failed neo-liberal attempts at climate policy which
that pass on the costs of making the transition onto working people.
Marcon in France tried to raise funds for
carbon reduction initiatives within the confines of a classic free market
agenda. It came about in the form of a fuel tax designed to make driving more
expensive. France’s working class, even many of whom in fact identified as
environmentalists, came to see that approach as an attack on them given that at
the same time the super-rich were still able to have their tax havens and
private jets. This disparity enables the conservative resistance to
transformative climate policy an opening to play their selective game of
divide-and-conquer and drive a wedge between economy and environment.
The GND meanwhile, will not generate this
sort of backlash because it is intended to lower economic strain at the same
time as meeting climate goals.
***(This is why my own work focuses
heavily on trying to get Inclusive Financing for energy improvements) ***
The technocratic approach to get climate
policy that which blew up in Marcon’s France was also the same one which failed
to get cap-and-trade passed in 2009 and 2010 when we had a near Democratic
supermajority Senate under the first two years of Obama. These past uninspiring
approaches did not have the power of an intersectional mass movement mobilizing
behind It that was needed to overcome reactionary and conservative opposition.
But the GND could if it is given a chance.
Given COVID-19, we have on our hands what
could be a second great depression. Support for the Green New Deal will not
melt away like support for other green initiatives have done during past
recessions because it is a large-scale stimulus modeled on FDR’s approach to
the original New Deal.
The centrists are driven by this a
defensive fear that that linking climate action with just about every other
progressive policy goal would provide cannon fodder for reactionaries and some conservatives
who have for decades accused calls for climate action as being some Trojan
Horse plot to smuggle in socialism.
But if the GND is actually given a
chance, it would undercut this fear associated with socialism. Nothing heals
ideological divides faster than an actual concrete project that brings jobs and
resources to economically hurting communities such as offering decent paying
jobs with ecosystem/ land regeneration and building infrastructure. During the
original New Deal, FDR clustered his New Deal projects in rural and/or
conservative areas so that they see the concrete benefits to their daily lives.
The people who benefited were no longer susceptible to fearmongering about a
socialist takeover of government. Elite attempts to either attack or slow the
original New Deal did not succeed because it was actually helping people’s
lives in concrete and tangible ways. If the Green New Deal creates good jobs
and detoxifies the environment, then who cares if the climate crisis were a
hoax? (It is not though for the record!)
The GND could become the collective purpose
that finally overcomes these alienating ideological divides and provides some
sort of a shared mission and shared destination that we need so desperately