The 2020 Democrats of the ‘Anti-Green New Deal Coalition’

By Kendra Chamberlain, a freelance journalist overing renewable energy technology and smart infrastructure. Originally published at DeSmog Blog Follow her on twitter @KendraRC976

Support for the ambitious Green New Deal proposal has uncovered widening rifts within the Democratic Party as presidential candidates begin fleshing out their 2020 platforms. To date, the Green New Deal resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has attracted 68 co-sponsors from Democratic congressmembers.

However, according to a recent report from Public Accountability Initiative (PAI), centrist Democrats and party leadership are part of what it calls an “anti-Green New Deal coalition” that could seriously impede the GND’s goal to transition the country to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Here’s the breakdown of how the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls fall in their less-than-full-throated support for the GND.

To clarify, this so-called “anti-Green New Deal coalition” is not homogenous or coordinated. As report co-author Derek Seidman told The Intercept: “You have on the one end, a very powerful part of this coalition that wants to completely crush the Green New Deal, and that’s the fossil fuel industry and the Republican Party.”

And then you have what’s going on among Democrats.

The Democratic Field for 2020: Spinning Away Support for GND

The GND’s early popularity among voters, along with increasing public awareness around climate change, has made the climate issue an essential facet of any Democratic presidential platform in 2020, more so than any other election to date.

“This has been huge,” said Corina McKendry, an associate professor of political science at Colorado College. “We’ve seen more Democratic candidates come out with strong climate commitments than we ever have before.”

Many Democratic candidates have voiced support for the GND. But there are still plenty who PAI says instead have joined the chorus of the anti-Green New Deal coalition, shaping their climate positions to appease its critics.

The ‘Hedging Their Bets’ Democrats

Senator Amy Klobuchar made her announcement to run for president in 2020 on a snowy Sunday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Credit: Lorie Shaull CC BY-SA 2.0

Some candidates have leveraged the vagueness of the GND as a way to support the popular policy idea without committing to anything. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a co-sponsor of the non-binding resolution, hedged her support in an interview with Fox News.

“I see it as aspirational. I see it as a jump-start,” she said. “So I would vote ‘yes,’ but I would also — if it got down to the nitty-gritty of an actual legislation as opposed to, ‘oh, here are some goals we have,’ that would be different for me.”

When pressed if she would support specific policies, such as “drastically reducing air travel,” she replied, “I am for a jumpstart of the discussion, or framework … I am not for reducing air travel.” She made similar comments about net-zero emissions. “I don’t think that is going to happen in the next few years,” she said. A request for clarification on which GNDframework policies she supports went unanswered.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, another Democratic candidate in the crowded field, has taken the opposite approach. In an interview with ABC’s “The View,” Gabbard said she has a strong track record as an environmentalist but doesn’t support the GND.

“I think we need to take serious action to address climate change,” she said. “I have some concerns with the Green New Deal, and about some of the vagueness of the language in there, so I have not co-sponsored that resolution.”

Gabbard’s campaign website lists her accomplishments as an environmentalist but doesn’t outline how Gabbard plans to address climate change in her presidential platform. Requests to the campaign for comment were not returned.

The ‘I’m Still a Democrat’ Crowd

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper speaks at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 opening ceremony. Credit: Jack Dempsey/ U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathalon, public domain

Still others have voiced outright contempt for the GND and its effect on the Democratic Party.

John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, a major U.S. oil and gas producer, last month said the GND shouldn’t become “a litmus test of what it takes to be a good Democrat.” He later admitted he hadn’t yet read the GND resolution, but said, “I’m going to guess that 99 percent of what’s in the Green New Deal I will be happy to embrace.” His bare-bones campaign website lists no plan or platform to address climate change.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who recently dropped out of the race, made a similar argument. “I don’t need to co-sponsor every bill that others think they need to co-sponsor to show my progressive politics,” he said.

The ‘My Plan Is Better’ Democrats

Former congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney. Credit: Marc Nozell CC-BY 2.0

A handful of Democrats have deemed the proposal too unrealistic to support despite the shrinking window for avoiding catastrophic climate change. Mike Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor, criticized the GND in a statement announcing he would not run for president.

The idea of a Green New Deal — first suggested by the columnist Tom Friedman more than a decade ago — stands no chance of passage in the Senate over the next two years. But Mother Nature does not wait on our political calendar, and neither can we,” he wrote.

Former congressman John Delaney (D-MD), meanwhile, has been vocally critical of the GND. In a pair of tweets from February 14, Delaney called the GND “a step backwards in fighting climate change because its unrealistic goals and linkage to other unrelated policies will make it harder to do anything.”

“The Green New Deal as it has been proposed is about as realistic as Trump saying that Mexico is going to pay for the wall,” he tweeted.

Delaney argued that his opposition to the GND revolves around the sweeping scope with which the resolution ties climate change policy to other big reforms. “I actually don’t think the Green New Deal is the way to go,” he said in an interview with The Hill. “The reason is that I want to do something about fixing climate change tomorrow. I don’t want to tie it to fixing health care.”

Delaney — who famously announced his bid for the presidency back in 2017 — stands out among Democratic candidates for already having a fully formed platform for addressing climate change, which would rely heavily on a carbon tax.

Ultimately, overcoming opposition to the GND, the PAI report says, will require strategies such as “finding ways to divide the coalition’s different parts and push some of its members, who are not all equal in their opposition, or who have bases that are more supportive, closer to the Green New Deal camp.”

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      1. notabanker

        Then why doesn’t she put them on her website? No shortage of buttons to click to donate, but try researching one single policy detail. Same with her appearance on CNN last night. Virtually zero substance, even on foreign policy. She was asked point blank what wars she would end and stumbled through Syria and Venezuela. No mention of Yemen or Afghanistan.

        Climate change was weak sauce. Nothing specific. And never once mentioned AIPAC after 5 minutes of discussion on Omar, really danced around the issue.

        I want her to do well, but not very impressed so far.

  1. a different chris

    Here’s the bright spot: everybody is arguing about “left” policies. Not how many blah people we can put in prison, not how many more tax cuts we can make and non-military expenditures we can cut to pay for them…

    When since Reagan has this been true? Feels good to be on the offensive.

  2. notabanker

    CNN Townhall-

    Delaney – Carbon tax and rebates. Must do something we can accomplish.
    Gabbard – Story from her time on City Council in Hawaii.
    Buttigieg – Reframe the issue to a now problem. Invest in renewables, plan for disasters, discuss but must act now

    All three were incredibly weak on this topic, imnsho.
    Delaney – Neo-Centrist 2.0
    Gabbard – I’m far left, trust me
    Buttigieg – I can speak far left and I might be persuaded to do something if I can get enough non-corp donations.

  3. Grant

    The GND encompasses so many different things because there are so many different things impacting the climate and ecosystems. Anyone lacking a systematic response to the environmental crisis doesn’t really offer a solution. They lead us in the same direction, but at a slightly slower pace, and might give us three more weeks before it all goes to hell. A measure here or there without a systematic understanding doesn’t rise to the challenge. Saying that the political system isn’t going to pass this isn’t something anyone should accept. If that is the case, it is the system, not the expectations of those that voted in these people to solve problems and not just enrich themselves, that must change.

    It does remind me of a quote from Karl William Kapp, which I came across yesterday, that he made all the way back in 1971:

    “Pollution effects are not minor side-issues and cannot be easily corrected by isolated ad hoc measures of legislative control, chosen and preferred because they are more or less compatible with the market system. In fact, what has always been put in question by the phenomenon of environmental destruction and social costs is the rationality of allocation and production patterns guided by market prices. What is called for are new criteria of allocation and new methods of decision making and control…such new criteria will not be found as long as one assumes tacitly or explicitly that the market system offers the fundamental criteria for a solution to the problems raised by the environmental crisis…market or price systems have a built in, institutionalized tendency of disregarding those social costs and negative effects which occur outside the exchange relationships.”

    Pretty accurate, I think. It is clearly a systems issue, and markets themselves are problems.

    1. Gary Gray

      This is a weak position. Markets are driven by materialism as they have since the 1700’s. Stuff like “Climate Change” have to be programmed into them, no different than a socialist.

      Socialism imo, has 4 main founders: Carlyle(Social Nationalism), Owen(Communism, though Weitling came up with the name), Fourier(Social Democracy) and Proudhon(Anarchism/Tribalism). Interestingly, the first and last have a dialectical connection similarly as the middle ones do. I don’t even consider Marx worthy to talk about. He, much like Freud was totally marketing and marketing only. Much like William James and others had already walked the path and done the work, Freud put a marketing twist that gave him fame, when Carl Jung passed him, he exploded in rage and ended all connection with his one time “friend”. Karl Marx is similarly. He basically bastardized Owen and Weitling’s work, creating a marketing system that like today’s carpetbaggers manipulates the pols.

      When I think of ecological thinking like the GND, you cannot think about it and not understand it opposes much of the 4 founders of socialism’s thoughts, as much as any market globalist and their lust for capital markets as the end all, be all of society.

      This is where thinking like a Odinist over a “Abrahamic” has some benefit. The latter’s lust in the semitic traditions of “man over nature”. While the former is “man respect nature” after 10000+ years of watching man devalue nature’s resources, the Gods and rituals were developed out of the carnage. Sadly, the world doesn’t think that way anymore. Even a atheist is a Christian…………really really.

      1. Disturbed Voter

        You are a person who knows. I hope more people read what you post here.

        Change can be made, provided that the consequences are thought out, and path from here to there pragmatically designed. No thought of consequences, or revolutionary change, are usually disastrous.

      2. Grant

        “Markets are driven by materialism as they have since the 1700’s. Stuff like “Climate Change” have to be programmed into them, no different than a socialist.”

        What does this even mean? Markets are missing lots of information. Even radical libertarians like Hayek and von Mises admitted this. There is missing information in markets and the ways of “internalizing externalities” are all highly problematic. If you have a realistic means of having the species extinction rate being encoded in prices (what would it mean that one species has a market value twice as high as another anyway?), or ocean acidification, the various impacts on human health and the environment of plastic pollution, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, the die off in phytoplankton (I kind of like having oxygen on Earth), if you think that the totality of the damage we are causing with destroying the Amazon can be encoded in prices (especially given we don’t really know what is there, what cures for diseases we are losing, the carbon sequestration now gone, etc.), please, the floor is yours. Most people that have studied this stuff a lot (I am one of them), realize that there are clear limits to markets. To quote Joan Martinez Alier, there are no ecologically correct prices. It’s absurd to think there are ecologically correct prices, or that you could possibly take into account indirect ecological impacts given how complex ecosystems are in isolation and how insanely complex they are in connection with one another. And if we were to even think that these things could be encoded in prices, as if you can tax carbon at some level in some decentralized system and at the system level carbon emissions will be within sustainable limits (anyone that has studies complex systems knows that is naïve in the extreme), that also requires something of consumers too.

        During the socialist calculation debate, the proponents of “free markets” focused on problems in regards to information. Central planners would have problems getting good data, analyzing the data, then acting quickly. They said that there were limits to getting and interpreting the data, then other issues in regards to how to quickly respond to what the data was showing. There is some truth in that. But how does that not apply to individuals even more? You go to the store, do you really know the full ecological impact of the stuff you buy, do you have any idea of the complex indirect ecological impacts? If your community is given a contingency valuation survey about a local lake, does everyone understand ecology, biology, atmospheric science, the actual benefit the resource brings them? Are there not obvious limitations in regards to the limits individuals have in regards to taking all of these factors into account, having all relevant information and having the time to consider all the complex factors that go into something like an ecological or carbon footprint? Are there not limits, even if the information was there for you, to make sense of it all? Good luck even buying a bag of chips if that is the expectation. Radical “free market” economists like Terry Anderson get around this by assuming something absurd, that there are no differences in knowledge between a trained ecologist, biologist, atmospheric scientists, chemist, and the average consumer, who is expected to consume in an ecologically responsible way. The big bad government can’t be trusted to address this. They also assume that there are no informational asymmetries, that consumers know the full ecological impact of products produced just as much as producers. If you don’t assume this stuff, you realize the problems of leaving this to individual market participants, individual producers and consumers. I don’t expect the GND to have all the answers at this point, because the goal right now is full steam ahead, pushing our productive capacities to their brink as quickly as possible. We can theorize, we need to, but some things will have to be figured out outside of the GND, and some of the things that need to be worked out are international in character. Like, what exactly do we do with the WTO, and similar institutions? Entirely ditch it, or radically reform it?

        “When I think of ecological thinking like the GND, you cannot think about it and not understand it opposes much of the 4 founders of socialism’s thoughts, as much as any market globalist and their lust for capital markets as the end all, be all of society.”

        This is nothing more than a claim, one that isn’t entirely clear to me. Back it up with some logic.

  4. Dwight

    I like Tulsi Gabbard for tying climate and health care to her anti war statements, saying we need a peace dividend to address these issue. I wish she would also discuss massive carbon emissions by the military. Not saying this is an adequate plan or that she shouldnt get behind GND, but I give her some credit for tying war spending and climate.

    1. Cal2

      i.e. Our military is the largest user of fossil fuels in the entire world?
      That doesn’t count the energy used to rebuild what we bomb or that used to procure raw materials for nuclear weapons.

  5. Afrikaan

    A publication like the Scientific American has come out in favour of the idea that, food, water and energy problems should not be considered separate issues. In South Africa, TB and AIDS are no longer considered separate diseases, at least not from a public health perspective.

    These are small examples that the GND is on the right track in being wide, and addressing many social and environmental issues under a single umbrella is the right thing to do.

  6. JerryDenim

    When pressed if she would support specific policies, such as “drastically reducing air travel,” she replied, “I am for a jumpstart of the discussion, or framework … I am not for reducing air travel.” She made similar comments about net-zero emissions.

    For me the promise of a Green New Deal is the promise of a different way of thinking about government spending, a renewed role for an activist government that acts as a leader and a problem solver for the pressing issues facing society, and perhaps most importantly, big, expensive, blue-sky thinking and technological innovations that could benefit the economy and the American citizenry for generations to come. There’s nothing good for the economy or the American public that comes out of “drastically reducing air travel.” Airlines employ a disproportionately large number of Americans relative to their size, and air travel is synonymous with economic activity. Air travelers rent cars, hotel rooms, buy meals and pay for entertainment where ever they disembark. You kill air travel, you kill all of the economic activity associated with it. This exactly the type of thinking that has given environmentalism a bad name. It’s no wonder politicians or level-headed citizens would feel squeamish supporting such contractionary and destructive policies.

    I’m not well versed on exactly what’s in or not in the GND, but politically toxic, industry and job killing provisions should definitely be out for the obvious, self-explanatory reasons, but also because small-minded policies which omit opportunities for large scale MMT style deficit spending in the pursuit of creating jobs and enormously beneficial new green technologies squander the promise and power of the Green New Deal. As long as the airline industry runs on kerosene, perhaps there should be some incentivizing regulations aiming at curbing ridiculously low-cost and wasteful air travel, but the proper way to maximize the positive impact of the Green New Deal would be for the government to massively spend to create new zero-emission commercial aircraft technology. The money could be pumped into university research programs, which would first benefit American universities and science. Then the new scientific breakthroughs could be funneled through some sort of new technology incubator program with ‘Made in the USA’ provisions leading to a resurgence in US manufacturing. Once viable zero-emission commercial aircraft exist, if market logic alone did not lead to immediate adoption by the airline industry, then the US government could incentivize or mandate the usage of the new zero-emission aircraft without destroying an integral part of the US economy. Two different approaches, totally different outcomes. One economically virtuous, one destructive. One outcome yields a fantastic new technology that can save a world drowning in carbon emissions, the other, nothing. The GND should be like a new 21st century Moonshot or Manhattan project that benefits the economy and citizenry as whole. If it proves to be a boon to US businesses, then all the better. What better way to eliminate political opposition?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Something else about air travel . . . some of it is air travel of eco-tourists to eco-tourism areas. Rain forest, other bio-interesting areas which will only survive if they earn their keep in money for the people who will otherwise destroy them for a one-time dose of resources if the eco-tourism money stops coming.

      ” The tourists don’t come here anymore and pay to see the trees. Let’s burn it all down and grow soybeans for China.”

  7. John B

    I plan to vote for a candidate who supports a strong version of the Green New Deal, whatever that turns out to look like. But I think there’s a real risk that support for tough climate change measures will cost a Democrat a lot of votes. Americans like cheap gas, SUVs, jet flights, big houses, big yards, hamburgers, etc. – or, at least, there are large and well-funded industries that successfully persuade us we do. Hopefully, the Democratic nominee will be sufficiently charismatic to change people’s minds, but it will be a tough job. Sales skills will be at a premium.

  8. Another Scott

    I’m still trying to figure out why Ed Markey is the lead author of this legislation. I don’t in anyway consider him to be a leading voice on the left. He’s always struck me as a pretty standard neoliberal as evidenced by his leadership in passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which he still champions.

    Well this story from when he ran for senate might have some the explanation.

    “Energy companies that have contributed to Markey include PACs associated with Calpine Corp., EDF Renewable Energy, GE, Iberdrola Renewables, National Grid, NRG Energy, Terra-Gen Power, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, SolarCity, Suez Energy North America, Xcel Energy, NextEra, Siemens and SunRun.”

    That’s a lot of the solar and wind industry behind him, which is probably one reason the legislation is so focused on advancing those causes. This is exactly the type of thing that proponents of the GND need to be careful of. Will the policy have the government spend directly on the technology, negotiating prices down or will it be done through public-private partnerships, PPAs and electric rates?

    1. John k

      Not gonna pass anything without support from some groups employing lots of workers.
      Coal is dead man walking already because renewables now so cheap that large and growing numbers now employed in solar and wind.
      Tesla, for all its faults, is in the vanguard away from fossil… saw a report no ic cars will be built after 2027. Seems a stretch, but still. Big industries are becoming dependent on renewables, we need that help in pushing against vested fossil.
      Big tent.

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