Itâs one thing for a back-bencher such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to roll out a pie-in-the sky Green New Deal with no explanation of its cost, feasibility or consequences. It is quite another for candidates running for president to sign on to something about which they cannot possibly answer basic questions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is now planning to take a vote on the resolution, trying to force Democrats who are running for president to choose between voting for an extreme measure or extremely annoying the progressive base. (Chances are, they will vote âpresentâ).
Instead of asking whether candidates have signed on to the GND or merely watching how Senate Democrats vote, maybe the press should start pressing Democratic candidates to answer questions about it. Here are some basics:
n How much does it cost? How do you calculate the cost?
n What impact will it have on existing industries and jobs, and how do you propose to address those effects?
n What technology must exist for the GND to come to fruition?
n Given the length of construction projects, even if we started building, say, light rail all over the country, when would it be done?
n Which technical experts and scientists have you consulted to determine which of the items on the wish list are attainable?
n How do we become âcarbon-neutralâ in 10 years?
n How do we go about âupgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrificationâ?
n What is the plan for âguaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United Statesâ in 10 years?
You get the idea. If Democratic candidates are going to take the GND deal seriously, they should face serious questions. We donât know how theyâd answer questions, but they cannot honestly come up with specifics to explain a fantastical program of undetermined scope and cost.
I raise these points not because I think climate change isnât a priority. It is. I raise these points not because I think Trump is right in asserting that those who care about climate change are socialists. Thatâs poppycock. I raise these points because the GND is an excellent way to discredit its supporters and the needed measures to abate climate change. Coming up with a wish list that can be easily mocked as a utopian plan is a really bad idea.
Trump says the Green New Deal would take away our cars, airplane rides, etc. He doesnât know that, but itâs a lot harder to make him seem like the extremist when your plan is unattainable and, frankly, silly.
Democratic primary voters should think about candidates who sign on to something this extreme and undefined without thinking through the ramifications. (Some of these candidates are lawyers and should know better than to affix their name to a blank check.)
Democratic primary voters should also credit the more thoughtful possible candidates. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, deserves points for not going down the Green New Deal road. Politico reports:
âThere are going to be all kinds of specific legislation on all kinds of issues coming out of a very energized, new group of members of Congress,â Brown told reporters Tuesday at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. âThat will continue for the next year. There will be all kinds of bills sponsored by individual presidential candidates. ... Iâm not going to take position on every bill thatâs coming out. I support a green new deal. I think we need to aggressively support climate change [legislation]. Thatâs my answer.â . . .
âIâm not going to get in the position every time someone has a really good idea or a big idea I have to talk in great detail on my position on it,â Brown said. âI know the easy thing to do is say, âYes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes,â but I donât know that that serves my constituents. As a progressive, Iâm not going to get in this race and change my positions and go like that with people.â
Now thereâs someone who demonstrates common sense and refuses to join the irrational stampede. Brown may favor much more expensive and invasive measures than Iâd like, but at least he is exercising judgment. Heâs thinking through the pitfalls of identifying with something that is going to scare off more voters than it attracts. He understands problems arenât fixed by making a wish list.
Brownâs considered approach should be expected from any serious presidential contender. Our current president doesnât think through details or explain difficult trade-offs. We shouldnât elect a new president afflicted with the same problem, even if we approve of their policy ambitions.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.