This November’s midterm elections brought about historic results regarding diverse representation in the U.S. government. Among the most notable was the victory of 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th congressional district House race, a victory that positioned the Bronx native to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. A former organizer for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, Ocasio-Cortez won on her own grassroots campaign that championed progressive agenda items such as single-payer healthcare, increased minimum wage, and ambitious environmental legislation.
The midterm election marked an achievement for progressive politicians across the nation, as Ocasio-Cortez’s celebrations were shared by several other similar candidates including Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Massachusetts’s Ayanna Pressley. Touted as the future of the Democratic party, Ocasio-Cortez is believed by many to be the leader of this young progressive wave headed to Capitol Hill.
Although her transition to Washington D.C. was tailgated by a media frenzy—scrutinized for everything from what was in her bank account to what she wore to work— Ocasio-Cortez kept her legislative goals clear in her crosshairs. In her first day in office, she participated in an organized sit-in in Nancy Pelosi’s office as a public endorsement of the highly-ambitious Green New Deal, a proposal conceived by one of Ocasio-Cortez’s youth activist organizations. The purpose of the sit-in was to urge Pelosi and the rest of the Democrat-dominated House to recognize climate change as a priority and embrace the Green New Deal. The proposal gained popularity quickly among some Democrats but generated heavy pushback from many others.
Frank Pallone, the Democratic representative from New Jersey expected to take over as head of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was quoted calling a Green New Deal committee “not necessary,” an opinion echoed by other House Democrats who believe the proposal has caused too much “bickering.” Peter DeFazio, the Democratic representative from Oregon posed to be the new head of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was reported being similarly unreceptive to the proposal and urging its proponents to “be realistic” about the government’s approach to climate change. The polarization of Democrats over this proposal makes clear that Ocasio-Cortez and co. face an uphill battle if they intend to bring the Green New Deal to fruition.
In this high-profile discussion brought about by the proposal, there begs a question of what it is actually being proposed. There is no official documentation on the Green New Deal, as it is more of a symbol of a call-to-action towards Congress rather than an actual drafted bill. However, Ocasio-Cortez and her youth activist group known as the Sunrise Movement have highlighted the proposal’s fundamental objectives on their respective websites as well as in press releases. I’ve gathered and listed key elements of the Green New Deal proposal below:
● Congress must first and foremost appoint a committee to oversee the legislating of the Green New Deal as well as secure funding for its execution.
● The Deal must be collaborative with industry, business, and state and local governments and federally enforced.
● The bill is to include ambitious goals and benchmarks over a ten-year plan, including a nation-wide transition to renewable energy along with the development of an energy-efficient smart grid, improvements and decarbonization of transportation and infrastructure, investments in the capture of greenhouse gases.
● The bill is also to provide a plan for the United States to become a leader in sustainability so that it can assist other countries in sustainable transitions.
● In recognizing the role that class disparities have in environmental injustices towards marginalized peoples, the bill is to ensure accessibility to Green New Deal economic resources for everyone.
● The bill is to be finalized by March 1, 2020
There is no denying that a climate change initiative of this caliber gaining significant support in Congress shows promise for the young generation. As for the incumbent congressmen and congresswomen casting the proposal aside, they may be seriously overlooking the opportunity that the Green New Deal presents. With prominent climate-science denial in both the Senate and the Oval Office, a stoutly progressive position on climate change could very well be the House’s best strategy at any sort of progress on the issue. Even if this proposition appears especially ambitious at a time in which our nation’s politics seem to be in a critical state, couldn’t that be what works in its favor? Throughout American history, there has never been a breakthrough on an issue without strong voices like that of Ocasio-Cortez leading the charge. The tenacity demonstrated by the new leaders during their first days in Washington is reflective of the young generation’s true grasp of the gravity of climate change.
Political disagreements within our government have long been used as justification for stagnation on crucial issues, and therefore the positions of this new generation of leaders deserve earnest consideration. Thus, the boldness of the Green New Deal’s demand for change should not be viewed as overzealous, but rather utilized as a deterrent to the current administration’s indifference toward our planet’s greatest threat.