Republicans in Congress say the Green New Deal is "radical."
Republicans pounced even before a historic resolution to address climate change was introduced Thursday — in the House by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with backing from Congressional Progressive Caucus co-Chairs Mark Pocan, D-town of Vermont, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.; and in the Senate by Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey with backing from Democratic presidential prospects and possibilities Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jeff Merkley.
The reactionaries who represent the nation's fossil fuel industries griped that the Green New Deal would negatively impact their paymasters.
"As Democrats take a hard left turn, this radical proposal would take our growing economy off the cliff and our nation into bankruptcy," cried Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair John Barrasso, R-Wyo. "It’s the first step down a dark path to socialism."
Illinois Republican Congressman John Shimkus, the ranking member on the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, decried "radical policies like the Green New Deal."
Thank you, Senator Barrasso.
Thank you, Congressman Shimkus.
Thanks to all the reactionary Republicans and docile Democrats who are describing the Green New Deal as "radical."
Please, please, please keep it up.
Climate change represents a stark threat to the planet and the people who inhabit it. When Pocan said that "we can't afford to wait any longer and need to take action on climate change," he was right. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that dramatic action will be required over the next 12 years to avert environmental and economic disaster.
"The climate crisis is a problem of epic proportions that requires a level of ambition just as big," explained League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski. "This is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and now is the time to challenge ourselves as never before.”
The politics of denial won't cut it anymore. Nor will the half-steps of those who acknowledge the crisis but refuse to respond in sufficient measure. "Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us, to our country, to the world,” explained Ocasio-Cortez.
So a radical solution is called for. No one should make apologies for recognizing this necessity. The proper synonym for "radical," after all, is "fundamental." Radical change goes to the root of the problem and addresses it.
The details of the Green New Deal are up for debate, as were the details of the original New Deal in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's time. The specifics will come over time.
Wisconsin state Rep. Greta Neubauer, who directed the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network before her election, said that what matters now is advancing a program "that provides living wage jobs and protects our environment."
Those who seek to divide us against one another say this is impossible.
Don't believe them.
FDR's New Deal proposals to address the economic crisis that extended from the Great Depression were attacked as radical — even before he and his brain trust had developed specific programs. Why? Because the entrenched special interests are always frightened by the prospect that government might get focused on addressing serious problems with serious proposals.
Markey understands this. Arguing that climate change deniers "are threatened by (the) Green New Deal because our FDR New Deal-inspired plan threatens their corporate polluter pals’ bottom lines," he said. "Good." Like FDR, Markey invited Americans to: “Judge me by the enemies I have made."
That's a reference to the historic speech FDR made in Portland, Oregon, shortly before his election to the presidency in 1932. Facing criticism from business executives and their amen corner in the media for proposing to crack down on corporate utilities that were overcharging customers, the Democratic presidential nominee declared: "To the people of the country I have but one answer on this subject: Judge me by the enemies I have made. Judge me by the selfish purposes of these utility leaders who have talked of radicalism while they were (defrauding) the people and using our schools to deceive the coming generation. My friends, my policy is as radical as the Constitution of the United States."
When critics called FDR radical, he embraced the term. "There is no question in my mind that it is time for the country to become fairly radical for at least one generation," he explained in the early 1930s.
In 1936, when he was bidding for a second term as president, Roosevelt addressed those who attacked him as too radical by saying of his first term: "We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred."
Supporters of a Green New Deal should borrow a page from FDR by laughing off the critics and by recognizing that there are times when the United States must, indeed, become fairly radical.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and @NicholsUprising.
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