Letting Your Ego Hurt Your Cause: AOC Demonstrates with Green New Deal
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez burst into the national scene last year by being an early face of what turned out to be a Democratic wave: an energetic, passionate woman of color who, agree or disagree, seemed ready to stand up and fight for what she believed in. She became an insta-celebrity among the Left, gaining fame with her short-hand handle, AOC. She chose climate change as her cause celeb, and proposed a Green New Deal that, roughly speaking, is a set of bold suggestions, rather than specific legal mandates, as a “sense of the House” resolution. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced a companion version in the Senate.
It’s fortunate for AOC that she has hero status among the Left flank of the party. Had someone else - say one of the dreaded establishment types - suggested a mere “sense of the House” resolution that legally mandates exactly nothing to combat climate change, they might have been called a weak pandering corporatist Republican-lite swamp creature. But she’s AOC, so, you know.
To be sure, the concepts represented in the resolutions are good concepts. It identifies the correct problem. It outlines - but only outlines - an urgency to mobilize around solutions like infrastructure, net-zero emissions, climate efficient transportation and buildings, and consciousness of the communities most affected by climate change. The resolutions have enlisted high-profile cosponsors, among them nearly all prominent Democratic presidential candidates, Maxine Waters, Ted Lieu, and others.
So it’s a good idea. It’s a great wishlist. But the resolution has no force of law. This is one reason we should expect the “Green New Deal” to become more of a catchphrase than specific policy solution, much in the vein of “Medicare for All”, and the candidates who support it will have to eventually release their specific versions which they believe can and should be enacted into law, not just be toothless ‘sense’ (feeling).
This “Sense of the House” and the companion “Sense of the Senate” resolutions have been panned as the Next Communist Evil (TM) by the Right in their infinite stupidity. However, AOC and out-of-Congress allies have also faced pushback from people who have been fighting in and outside Congress to enact actual public policy to roll back the tide of devastating climate change, not just pass a feel-good do-nothing wishlist.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said last week that Senate’s chief sponsor for the GND, Ed Markey, told Durbin that it is a “aspiration” resolution, implicitly confirming that it’s not actually meant to spark any action right now, at least not by the government. Labor unions are lamenting the vagueness and potential economic demands of the vague resolution. Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the GND, but only as “one of several” ideas.
And of course, then there was that highly-edited, almost-doctored video, which the Green New Deal backers tried to use against California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who actually has a bill with legal teeth and mandates, and not just a “sense of the Senate” resolution. In a part the backers edited out, a woman who appears to be an organizer for the Sunrise Movement admits that the AOC-Markey resolution “isn’t something that’s aimed at passing right now.”
All of this - the toothlessness of her resolution that doesn’t actually do anything, the pushbacks, and the criticisms have apparently got to Ocasio-Cortez and begun to bruise her ego.
AOC, frustrated and angry that people dare challenge her on an idea she thinks so highly of that she won’t herself put the force of law behind it despite being a… you know, lawmaker, essentially demands everyone to shut up. Everyone, at least, who hasn’t come up with an equally “aspirational” yet toothless, vague, feelings resolution.
Dare I suggest that Ocasio-Cortez’ energy would be much better spent working with any number of coalitions inside and outside Congress on developing and building support for actual legislation with mandates that she believes will adequately address climate change. Heck, it would be much better utilized trying to work with her new colleagues to try to figure out exactly where the votes are to pass her aspirational resolution!
But no. She’s much too busy telling people who have spent lifetimes working on - and implementing - solutions that she’s the only one that has ever done anything about it in 30 years (which would be one year longer than she is alive - takes some chutzpah to come up with that), while she, in reality, has actually done exactly nothing in Congress about the problem. She is much too busy demanding that she be the boss instead of doing the hard work of earning the support of her colleagues and passing what she’s got - which would actually make her a boss.
Legislating is hard work. It takes more than browbeating. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is inadvertently teaching a master class on exactly how not to legislate: letting your ego get in the way of your cause.
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