When voters elect Congress members, they hope their elected officials will draft and support legislation aligned with their constituents’ interests. Unfortunately, many Americans absorb news from unethical media outlets and fringe politicians to learn about legislation. Few people read the bills. As a result, they may wind up opposing legislation they would support if they better understood it.
To generate support for their positions, Republicans successfully attack Democratic legislation until followers support their narrative. They effectively employed this strategy with the Green New Deal. Every American should embrace it except for the country’s worst polluters and the Republican legislators who rake in their donations.
But since its introduction, Republicans have effectively used the resolution as a lightning rod to stir their base by making false claims about its proposals. By equating the Green New Deal with a radical, left-wing, socialist agenda, they eroded support for it.
Republicans made climate change a political issue because addressing the damages that result from it conflicts with their donors’ interests. It’s that simple. Republicans share a bed with America’s biggest polluters: the oil, coal, and animal agriculture industries.
Climate change should not be a political issue. It’s a human survival issue. And the threat it poses should not be debated, given the science that undergirds it.
In 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Green New Deal. The name draws inspiration from FDR’s New Deal–successful economic and social reforms and public works projects implemented during the Great Depression.
There’s nothing radical about the Green New Deal. It’s a set of practical steps the United States needs to take to mitigate climate change’s effects on our economy, food supply, national security, infrastructure, wildlife, and environment. It’s radical not to have a solution to these challenges.
The Green New Deal states the federal government must respond to scientists’ findings that human activity is the dominant cause of climate change. Research indicates a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and increasing wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events. The resolution details the impact of these events and prescribes steps we need to take to reduce greenhouse emissions.
The resolution explains that the U.S. causes a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions and should therefore take a leading role in addressing the issue. It details the impact of climate change, including lower life expectancy, a decline in clean air and water, healthy food, adequate health care, housing, transportation, and education, and inadequate resources to combat it.
The resolution details how climate change disproportionately impacts people along racial, social, and economic lines, including people of color, migrant communities, indigenous peoples, deindustrialized communities, low-income workers, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, and youth. It recommends creating high-wage jobs to deal with climate change’s impact–and providing for workers to transition to these jobs from fading industries.
The resolution recommends building protection against extreme weather, eliminating greenhouse gases to the degree possible, providing universal access to clean water, and supporting clean energy and soil health. It calls on the nation to upgrade buildings to maximize power efficiency, work with farmers to reduce pollution, build a more sustainable food system and high-speed rail, restore natural ecosystems through soil carbon storage, land preservation, and afforestation, protect endangered biodiversity, and clean hazardous waste sites.
Which of these proposals is radical? Clean air and water? A secure food supply? Improved national security? Better protection from climate disasters? Avoiding hazardous waste?
If Republican voters who oppose the Green New Deal read the resolution, they would more fully appreciate the recklessness of the attacks against it.
Before Republicans falsely claimed it would end the sale of hamburgers, 64% of Republicans supported the Green New Deal, according to a study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. The same study found that 54% of Republicans changed their mind after watching Fox News, including a segment by Tucker Carlson, which branded it “The Green New Mess” and called it “socialism.”
Media watchdog Media Matters found that more than half of the segments on Fox on the topic didn’t mention climate change and instead shared false claims about its contents. Now only 4% of Republicans support the resolution.
When people oppose the Green New Deal, they’re arguing against their interests. Republican politicians aren’t representing the people who elected them. They’re defending dark special interests and the country’s worst polluters and protecting their power.
The Green New Deal isn’t radical; it’s a smart and critical policy to create a better future for everyone regardless of their political affiliation. It’s patriotic, compassionate, and practical. It’s nonpartisan and essential. It’s America’s blueprint for survival.
To borrow from FDR, the only thing we have to fear is Republicans misleading the public about the existential threat of our time.