Newly elected Democratic Congresswoman from the 14th district of New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, released her plan on Thursday for what she calls the “Green New Deal,” which is a response to what some see as the threat of climate change in the coming decades. Since the announcement, the plan has taken criticism and praise from a variety of writers and media outlets. Some analysis has put a price tag somewhere near the $7 trillion range if implemented as described. So far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she appreciates the “enthusiasm” of Ocasio-Cortez, which is a nice way of saying she doesn’t think it will go anywhere.
With the 2020 Democratic primary beginning to take shape, several candidates offered their comment on the Green New Deal:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), via Axios:
“Senator Warren has been a longtime advocate of aggressively addressing climate change and shifting toward renewables, and supports the idea of a Green New Deal to ambitiously tackle our climate crisis, economic inequality, and racial injustice.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), via press release:
“We can end the climate change crisis, we can dramatically modernize our economy, and we can create countless new jobs across the entire country that can’t be shipped overseas – but we can only do it if Congress seizes this opportunity and acts now, instead of wasting more time arguing about whether or not the problem is even real. We cannot wait another day. I urge all of my colleagues to fight with me for a Green New Deal that puts Americans to work to solve this extraordinary challenge.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), via Medium:
“According to a harrowing report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have a shrinking window to take drastic action to cut carbon emissions and make meaningful change to save our planet.”
“The Green New Deal is a bold plan to drastically shift our country to 100% clean and renewable energy. We will repair our country’s crumbling infrastructure, upgrade buildings across the nation, and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, via Twitter:
"We're gonna say no to subsidizing big oil and say yes to passing a Green New Deal." #Julian2020
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) January 12, 2019
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has also supported the concept of a “Green New Deal” and has signed on to be a sponsor of the bill in the U.S. Senate.
The Democratic Primary Litmus Test
As pointed out by a writer for Grist, an independent news blog, the “Green New Deal” is becoming a dividing line within the party between candidates who express full support, and candidates who lean more toward the middle and feel pushing such an audacious and sweeping plan is simply not feasible and not good for the party:
What’s included in Thursday’s proposal is just as important as what’s left out, particularly when it comes to getting presidential candidates on board. The resolution doesn’t exclude a price on carbon — an emissions-reducing mechanism favored by liberals and some conservatives — nor is there a strict definition of what “100 percent renewable energy” means. So someone like Cory Booker, a 2020 presidential candidate who happens to support nuclear energy, can comfortably put his name down as a cosigner of the new resolution.
Including Booker, five presidential candidates have cosigned AOC and Markey’s resolution: Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders. Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro hasn’t explicitly said he backs this proposal, but he has expressed support for a Green New Deal in the past. Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Hawaii Senator Tulsi Gabbard, and former Maryland Representative John Delaney haven’t indicated if they support the proposed resolution yet.
With heavyweights like Warren and Harris on board, it’s becoming clear that a progressive Green New Deal will likely be a central tenet of any Democrat’s 2020 agenda. “We’re going to press all elected officials, especially 2020 contenders, to support this resolution.
With the intention of the plan to redefine the entire U.S. economy based around government spending on transitioning the country to renewable energy sources, you can be assured that some Democrats will feel uneasy pushing this plan.
This is the type of issue that will drive a wedge in the primary process, perhaps with someone like Joe Biden supporting the general goals of the plan, but taking a more tempered and pragmatic approach to how impossible it would be to make this happen in 100 years, let alone 10 years.
In some ways, that is the true intention of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pushing something so sweeping – Democrats will be forced to pick a side on the issue, which will push the party further to the left.
This question and topic will come up at the first Democratic debate in June, and you can bet there will be some fireworks as candidates try to differentiate themselves by being “serious” about climate change as an “existential threat,” as Kamala Harris has referred to it by adopting the language of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.