EDITORIAL: Why not a Green New Deal?

BLAME CHRIS GIBSON. The popular congressman who represented the 20th District until the end of 2016 got a bipartisan resolution through the House of Representatives that acknowledged human behavior is a cause of climate change and lawmakers ought to do something about it.

Back in 2015, when the GOP held a commanding majority in the House, Mr. Gibson got 11 of his Republican colleagues to step up as co-sponsors. The rest of the party kept its collective head in the sand and then acted surprised when Democrats won control of the House last November.

It took Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14th) a week after taking office to introduce the Green New Deal resolution that would have the House acknowledge its duty to mobilize the nation to eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions, provide clean air, water and food plus a sustainable environment along with good jobs for everyone and wealth shared more equitably… and that’s only Page 2 of the 5-page Resolution H. Res. 109.

You could dismiss this resolution as a progressive smorgasbord or a utopian PowerPoint for a more perfect union. But it already has 68 co-sponsors. And it’s a lot more pleasant to read than the details of what happened to Paradise, California. The incineration of that city demonstrates what it means when the word “threat” is coupled with the intentionally bland term “climate change.”

We don’t all agree how best to respond to climate change even among those who know the threat is real and we need leadership from the federal government. The public town hall meeting with Congressman Antonio Delgado at the Kellner Center in Germantown last weekend makes that clear.

Rep. Delgado is not a co-sponsor of the resolution, but he likes some of the ideas in the Green New Deal. He cited the growth of “green jobs” without dwelling on details of how we determine which jobs are green, which are non-green and which are just jobs. He said he will support “practical steps toward a bold vision.”

It sounds like he wants the practical steps to shape that bold vision. Some people at the Kellner center said, in effect. he has his priorities backwards.

When one advocate for the Green New Deal said that everybody in the room believed in the resolution, someone else shouted, “No we don’t.” There were murmurs of support for the shouter. It was the only shouting during the hour-and-a-half session and rather than hostile or partisan, the audience sounded momentarily stunned, as if the exchange had exposed the difficulty of uniting the public behind any set of ideas or plans for reckoning with the emotional toll global warming has begun to take on us all.

In discussing another constituent’s question Mr. Delgado gave a quick demographic profile of his district. Among other qualities, it is 90% white. The audience Saturday mirrored that. The residents of the district are older on average than the state or the nation. An unscientific scan of participants suggested that too was true of the Germantown audience. Older people vote in greater numbers than young people.

But the folks challenging Rep. Delgado on his reluctance to support the Green New Deal came from the youngest voters in the hall. Their voices were tense. They weren’t satisfied with his cautious practicality regardless of what the majority of the audience thought. Global warming is their lifetime reality.

The Green New Deal resolution speaks glowingly of the original New Deal and how the federal government mobilized the nation to recover from the Great Depression. But the New Deal was not a single project. It was a series of experiments and untested theories thrown together to navigate an economy near collapse. It was President Franklin Roosevelt’s extraordinary leadership that allowed the public to believe it was cohesive policy.

Some of the New Deal programs didn’t work. Some were scuttled by a hostile Supreme Court. What was left sustained the United States through the worst economic crisis in our history.

Today we have no such authentic leadership. And Rep Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal may not be precisely the right vehicle to steer us through the threat of climate change. This new New Deal may propose remedies that won’t work, that run afoul of the high court or leave lawmakers struggling to make clear what the policy means. But Rep. Delgado will find himself on the wrong side of history if he doesn’t rethink his cautious approach to this resolution or come up with a better document to replace it.

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