Running Against Nancy Pelosi Didn’t Work Last Year, So They Think They’ve Found Someone New…
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week said he plans to bring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ‘ “Green New Deal” to the floor of the Senate for a vote. (Even though she’s not a Senator, she’s got the backing of several Senate Democrats on it.) But it’s not because McConnell’s suddenly become a proponent of vast new clean energy and jobs initiatives. It’s because he knows it won’t pass, and he wants to get the many Democratic Senators already or probably running for President in 2020 on the record committing to it, or not. (Nancy Pelosi is not planning on doing the same thing in the House.)
Here’s a clip of McConnell discussing his “interest” in the “Green New Deal” with reporters. You’ll note the little smirk.
McConnell apparently believes once that vote is done, Republicans will have plenty of material to go on the attack, using any votes in favor to discredit Democratic candidates for getting behind a wildly expensive turbo-charged pie-in-the-sky tax and spend initiative. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, at least til now, hasn’t been a big winner politically, primarily because most voters do not feel it effects them day-to-day, like health care, taxes, and other “pocket book” issues do. While nothing could be further from the truth, it’s harder to effectively explain or “sell” it as a major issue still. In fact, many Republicans cheer “deregulation” in almost any form, even if it means giving giant corporations a lot more freedom to pollute. Republicans (including Trump) have become very adept at equating new regulations of almost any kind (except those limiting abortions—and we’ll get to that on another day) as an attack on personal freedoms.
Actually, it’s even simpler than that: it’s much easier to tear something down than build it up. That’s something Trump knows through experience as a builder.
Aside from having a snappy name, and the biggest rising star in the House behind it, the “Green New Deal” at this point does not have a single bill associated with it; it’s more of a vision, or overarching framework. Here’s a link to the entire resolution from Congress’ official website. And here’s the stated objective of AOC’s “Green New Deal” Resolution:
HR 109: “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”
So what’s all the fuss about? A document, which NPR says appeared in a blog post from AOC’s office, fleshing out ideas and suggesting talking points. They’ve taken it down. NPR still has it posted; here’s a link to it.
And it does talk about making air travel unnecessary. And “farting cows”. And getting rid of all non-electric cars. And the financial piece (a.k.a. how to pay for it) is murky. Other than the fact that the bulk of the self-described “massive” investment will come from the U.S. government. Giving the President and Republicans plenty to fear-monger about.
But the Senate won’t be voting on all of that. Just the one sentence we referred to above acknowledging the government should pursue a “Green New Deal”. Republicans are hoping it won’t matter, and they can fuse the two together in the minds of the electorate.
Republicans know full well how that works: they thought their massive tax cut would be wildly popular just because tax cuts are usually wildly popular. Until people saw the details and realized mostly all of the benefits were going to corporations and wealthy individuals. (And what ever happened to the 10% middle class tax cut Trump promised during last year’s Midterm campaign?)
So it’s in Republicans’ interest to make people think AOC and Democrats have a plan fully set in stone. Just listen to President Trump at a rally the other night trying to make people very, very afraid of the “Green New Deal.” He’s got all kinds of specifics. And although he exaggerates here, he isn’t really lying. He doesn’t need to. Here’s the clip:
And you can bet that’ll be in every Trump stump speech from now til 2020. Because “they’re coming to take away your cars, your planes, your cows”, is a very easy concept to grasp. Explaining the advantages of pursuing some of those ends as part of noble and ambitious goals for the country, and as a world leader, is much more difficult. Especially since there isn’t anything yet that’s concrete; it’s just a bunch of guiding principles. But try explaining that?
(Just like—whether you agree with it or not—it’s harder to explain what a 70% marginal tax rate is, than fear monger by shouting from the rooftops: “she wants to raise all your taxes by 70%!” Which of course, Trump is also doing).
In fact, while Republicans for decades have been running against Nancy Pelosi, regardless of who the local candidate actually was (they were always portrayed as a “Pelosi puppet”), now they seem to have decided to run against AOC. They were even doing it during the run up to the Midterms when she hadn’t even been elected yet! And they’ll be doing it much more in 2020.
The reality is even if government does start moving in the direction of a “Green New Deal”, which would require Democrats winning the Presidency, and Senate, and House by a big margin, and with a significant enough number of Progressives to make it all possible, the “Green New Deal” still almost definitely wouldn’t be legislated as a single giant tidal wave of new regulations and expenses.
Republicans like AOC as a target because they can hold her up as evidence the Democratic party is controlled by radicals, and the economy and the country are under attack by Socialists, who want to control all aspects of American life. (Watch Fox these days, it’s practically all they’re talking about.) And it’s being led by the President when he says things like:
Look, that strategy could work. The 2020 elections will be all about the economy (the 2018 Midterms really weren’t), and assuming it stays strong, you might see people voting for Republicans who wouldn’t otherwise, because they don’t want to upset the apple cart. Trump spouting “horrifying” details about what Democrats want to do only feeds into that.
Republicans seem to think AOC can assist them in dragging half the Democratic Party down with her if they “assist” her in providing a platform for what they believe will come off as a highly radical agenda. And their political calculus is simple: if they can make more people terrified of her and what she represents, than are inspired by her and what she represents, they win. But can they?
Republicans may be losing sight of the fact that a huge part of the reason AOC has gained so much fame so quickly (with objectively zero record to run on), is because she is fresh and gives hope to a new generation that politicians can make a difference in their everyday lives. And it’ll be hard to explain to them why they shouldn’t support her and the “Green New Deal”. And they understand it’s OK to be idealistic.
It reminds us a little of the early days of the internet. And how ideas that turned out to be transformative were initially subject to disdain and ridicule. But also reflected a deep-seated fear on behalf of traditional businesses that they didn’t know how to address. Not all the early internet start-ups succeeded. (And as the “Daily Beast” asserts, the “Green New Deal” could absolutely be a big misstep.) But sometimes, things that looked like missteps turned out not to be. And people who were the most derisive were often the ones left the furthest behind.
So AOC is also a threat to Republicans, perhaps moreso than a potential liability to Democrats. And while action like McConnell bringing the “Green New Deal” resolution to the floor of the Senate looks like shrewd political maneuvering, it’s also a sign the Republican Leader wants to dam up this new political momentum just in case the waters start to rise so high he’s no longer able to stop them.