The Politics Of The Green New Deal: More Democracy

Posts in this series.

The Green New Deal Challenges The Domination of Capital

Part 1 on Labor

The Politics of the Green New Deal: Part 2 on Capital

The Politics of The Green New Deal: The Opposition Of The Rich

The Green New Deal: OMG It’s Socialism!

The Politics Of The Green New Deal: We Can’t Pay For That

The Green New Deal restructures democracy in ways that benefit the working class at the expense of the donor class. The donor class gets its way most of the time, Here’s a recent discussion from Eric Levitz at tNew York Magazine. Levitz takes the Gilens and Page study farther, showing policies that are popular with majorities or large pluralities are not even considered by politicians. One example:

Take government drugs (…please): DFP and YouGov asked voters, “Would you support or oppose having the government produce generic versions of life-saving drugs, even if it required revoking patents held by pharmaceutical companies?”

Respondents approved of that idea by a margin of 51 to 21 percent. The proposal enjoyed the approval of a majority of Trump voters, and actually garnered more support in (stereotypically conservative) rural zip codes than in urban ones.

One of the drugs that meet this test is insulin; here’s a good description of the problem. In December 2018 Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky offered the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, which would put the government in the business of manufacturing generics to reduce prices. And here’s a predictable response, it’s evil socialism. Bills like this are not part of the discussion.

History tells us that capitalists will dominate the nation’s response to climate change, as they have in every economic disruption. The Green New Deal works against that outcome. Section 3 says

a Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses;

At present, the first three groups are rarely heard in legislative and policy circles, and civil society groups and academics are barely heard and pretty much ignored. This section alone will expand democracy. These unheard groups are nearly powerless, and other provisions of the Green New Deal are intended to strengthen these groups and increase their voice in the process of coping with efforts to salvage something from climate change. For example, Section 4.3 requires the government to

Provid[e] resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States, with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities, so those communities may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization;

Section 4.6 requires

ensuring the use of democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities and workers to plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level;

Labor unions have played a strong role in protecting the interests of workers. Section 4.9 calls for strengthening labor unions and making it easier for workers to organize. Section 4.11 requires that trade agreements protect the interests of workers. Section 4.10 calls for

strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors;

There is a connection between deeper involvement in strictly political matters and stronger unions. People start by participating in political decision-making, and learn that they can have actual control over public expenditures and policies. Then they apply that to their participation in union activities, and soon learn that they can have a say in the conditions that affect them for the largest part of their working day. They can change the conditions of work including safety, their schedules, and eventually they realize they don’t have to wear diapers to deal with lack of bathroom breaks, or suffer other abusive practices. Equally important for success in fighting climate change, working people often understand their jobs better than management. They can work smarter if they have enough power to make it happen. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned practicing Bankruptcy law is that no business ever failed because of its workers.

It works the other way, too. Participation in unions leads to more involvement in politics, and a clearer understanding of the issues. Unions have played a large role in Democratic politics, but the politicians have not done anything to protect unions and their interests. Stronger unions won’t accept their disregard.

Our lives seem different under this administration. The constant ratatat of garbage news from Trump’s brain and his erratic behavior swamp our news and our entertainment. At a personal level, the nonsense has dominated every dinner party I have hosted or attended since he got elected, leaving us struggling to change the subject or plunging us into a miasma of anger and despair. It took an out-of-town guest with a background in medieval history to break that chain, and remind me that politics has infected my life and that of my friends and family. The current level of democracy leaves us impotent. We can’t stop the damage, we can’t slow it down, and we can’t fix the real problems. We are powerless.

This in turn reinforced my reasons for thinking that the Green New Deal is vitally important. If it happens we open new channels for participation in the decisions that affect our day-to-day lives. Right now, Democratic politicians and their consultants and their rich donors tell us to work on their political campaigns, but not to upset them with primaries, not to establish purity tests, and most important not to demand radical change. Change is coming, they tell us, but just a little at a time and only if the Republicans won’t shout too loud.

My very first blog post at FireDogLake raised the question: what should Obama do for us? We supported him without making specific measurable demands. That’s not what the donor class did. But the Green New Deal is a demand from below. It’s a demand not just for climate action, but aspecific kind of action. It’s a demand for full participation by all of us in the decisions that affect our lives. It’s a statement that we aren’t going to allow the rich and their supporters to make the decisions and leave us to clean up the mess and eat the losses.

24 replies
  1. Hops says:

    It seems to me that the divide that has always permeated America is the urban/rural one, which is more lopsided than ever. How do we reconcile the divergent interests of the urban and rural? If you live in a very rural area, you need a pickup truck and may have a 20+ mile drive to the local stores. You don’t want a carbon tax on your gas. Perhaps there are answers in biorefineries, solar farms, and wind. It may also be wise to incentivize people to move to the rural areas and create small urban centers rather than the huge megacities that have formed. I think a lot of the inner city kids who get into crime would benefit from time on a farm.

  2. Stacey says:

    I agree with everything said in this post IN THE EXTREME! :-)

    And I want to add further that it would increase our understanding of ‘how this democracy stuff works with real critters in the workplace’ by looking deeply into the Mondragon Worker’s Cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain, where they’ve been successfully running large manufacturing companies as fully democratically controlled worker owned cooperatives for decades!

    Check this out by looking at any of these introductions:

    Marcy is completely right about the psychological effect of being treated like a fully actualized adult at work all day (rather than the child everyone knows they are reduced to at work now) and how that will absolutely lead them to demand MORE of their political and larger social worlds. And yes, THIS nightmare is far worse than any band of pitchfork wielding commoners coming for them that Capital currently fears!

    Mondragon shows us that our concept of unions was a good starting point, but hardly where this fight should end. Workers shouldn’t be negotiating with management. The workers should BE THE MANAGEMENT and anyone who says that’s pie in the sky, is not being honest to the facts and experience of an increasing segment of the working population across the globe. It just IS.

  3. Eureka says:

    This is a great essay, Ed, and I am lacking in bandwidth right now (how very meta) to say much else but thank you.

    FYI there is a NYT article going around today– ~’The Democratic Electorate on Twitter isn’t the Democratic Electorate’– which (from context) seems to imply ~moar centrism. No clicky for me, so can’t otherwise speak to it.

    Also, BF yesterday had this:

    Republicans Jim Jordan And Mark Meadows Warn Drug Companies Not To Cooperate With Congressional Investigation

    Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.
    Cummings requested information from 12 drug companies such as Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis AG in January as part of a broad investigation into how the industry sets prescription drug prices.

    In their letters, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows — leaders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus — imply that Cummings may be attempting to collect the information in order to bring down the industry’s stock prices.

    They write that Cummings is seeking sensitive information “that would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.” They then accuse Cummings of “releasing cherry-picked excerpts from a highly sensitive closed-door interview” conducted in an investigation into White House security clearances. “This is not the first time he has released sensitive information unilaterally,” says the letter. The authors say they “feel obliged to alert” the drug companies of Cummings’ actions.

    • Rayne says:

      As if saying that much publicly didn’t also have a potential impact on stock prices.

      These guys need a referral to DOJ if Cummings finds a whiff of conspiracy with drug companies.

      • Eureka says:

        I couldn’t even wrap my head around all of the varieties of malfeasance inherent in this stunt. Let us count the ways, in our ‘spare time.’

        • P J Evans says:

          I can’t see Cummings doing that. But I can see the GOP-T doing it, while thinking that they’re smart. Especially Jordan and Meadows, neither of whom seems to think past “can I gain from this?”

          • Eureka says:

            Right. Plus it’s playbook: accuse dems of that which GOP is doing, does, or would do, while attempting to thwart oversight, the people’s work, etc.

    • e.a.f. says:

      In my opinion Meadows and Jordan were not doing their constituents any favours. Drug prices do need to come down. If you can’t afford to pay for your prescriptions what is the point of going to the doctor for one.

      In July 2017 the Quebec provincial government was able to negotiate a reduction in price for generic drugs, with generic drug manufacturers. Over a 5 year period, the province will save $1.5B for their provincial drug plan. With a population of a little over 8 million people, its a huge savings.

      If these two men took an oath of office, and are now sending letters out to drug manufacturers are they not violating that oath, given Mr. Cummings is the Chair of a lawful government committee?

      Makes you wonder what drug companies would do to keep drug prices high.

      It does seem weird that these two would send out this type of letter because you could just ask any one who owned a pharmacy what they pay for their drugs.

      • P J Evans says:

        In the US, asking pharmacists would probably reveal that the manufacturers don’t have one set of prices: they charge much more to some than others, and if you’re not a chain, you get charged much more for the same drugs.

  4. Mainmata says:

    I have worked my entire career on the environment and international development and the last 10 years on climate change. The US Government, before Trump was actively involved in supporting renewable energy and climate change adaptation (through contractors/NGOs internationally and support for academia’s role in climate science and collaborations like the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and its various scientific panels. It still is to some extent as is USAID’s support for climate programs in developing countries, (psst… don’t tell Trump), including the Northern Triangle until Trump killed all aid there.

    Look, we don’t have much choice but to support the GND. It is not a fairy tale, purity ideal; radical climate change is our existential reality. It’s only going to get much worse really quickly, especially once the permafrost explodes (among other things).

    Trump said that he doesn’t care because he won’t be around for the worst. I’m pretty sure that is also the entirety of actual position of the GOP Congress and most of its followers. Screw the future, bank money now. We have to change that now. It’s a matter not only for democracy but also the survival of the species.

  5. JamesJoyce says:

    New Green Deal needs something akin to a radical republican and abolitionist repulsed by the old energy monopoly and the risk it passed on to a republic.

    Deja Vu?

    Thaddeus Stevens of the Green New Deal?

    “People start by participating in political decision-making, and learn that they can have actual control over public expenditures and policies. Then they apply that to their participation in union activities, and soon learn that they can have a say in the conditions that affect them for the largest part of their working day. They can change the conditions of work including safety, their schedules, and eventually they realize they don’t have to wear diapers to deal with lack of bathroom breaks, or suffer other abusive practices.”

    Participation in democracy is work. Voting is work for some while others would not miss the opportunity to vote, considering it duty.

    For some just to vote; it cost their lives. Protecting Democracy takes many forms.

    One thing is certain…
    Discrimination is brutal.


    Monied interests benefiting from entrenched monopoly, born or other’s fears and dependencies; seldom if ever want change.

    Lots of discrimination

    “Abusive practices” tend to ensure silence, cash and oil flow.

    Think Khashoggi, a Crowned Prince, Aramco the modern energy monopoly and America’s oil dependency….

    Change, don’t come easy.

  6. sdr says:

    Marvelous primer; thank you. *Really* appreciated as I am surrounded by NFP constituents who are horrified by the prospect of losing their donor class. This explanation of a bigger political context is very helpful.

  7. e.a.f. says:

    the sections the above article quotes are amazing. Don’t expect too many corporations or politicians to be in favour of it though. The requirement for higher education for front line people in communities is amazing. It is through education that people can “set themselves free”. A quality education will not only enable people to acquire the knowledge and skills for new jobs, but to know their history, understand how government ought to be run, how it could run. An education to know your rights and how to use them, scares the crap out of supervisors. there isn’t anything as empowering, for a worker, than to tell their supervisor, you can’t do that, my collective agreement here says you can’t. I’m phoning my Union rep. and she’ll be in touch with your manager. Some may argue collective agreements it can’t save jobs, but it sure can get you a good severance package on the way out the door. However, some collective agreements do have “no cut clauses”, for the duration of the collective agreement.

    • Ed Walker says:

      Ken, thank you for that. I can’t decide whether I’m laughing or crying. In this series I have repeatedly said that the Republicans are not serious people, but this is beyond my capacity to imagine.

      I always thought Louis Gohmert was unquestionably the stupidest man in Congress. Now I’m not so sure.

      So I checked his wiki page:

      This jackass has a bachelor’s and a masters from MIT. I wonder if they want their degrees back.

    • Eureka says:

      1- Holy crap
      2- (re Ed reply) wtf is MIT doing?
      I guess this is why liberal arts colleges tout their value towards an educated, engaged citizenry.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        MIT ?

        This is what MIT does….

        Makes sure Tesla’s technology is not used to access hydrogen tied up in a salt water molecule.

        Humans can transfer harvested photon energy emanating from a hydrogen fusion reaction to overcome affinity molecular level to access the fuel of the stars. It is called hydrogen.

        Trees are pretty adept at catching photons. So too is a Helicon Thruster…

        A Crowned Prince of Saudi Arabia and his business associates have no interest in having Americans aware of this capability and existing technology which is utilized in satellite propulsion systems and will enable future endeavors in space to Mars.

        This technology was proposed by a Russian in 1908. It could be much older?

        My cell phone has more computer power than Apollo 11 Command Module and we still utilize an inefficient ICE?

        Preservation of monopoly at any cost is nothing new.

        Thaddeus Steven fought a abhorrent and aberrant monopolistic institution which benefitted from fugitive slave laws and the like, which as clear nexus to current learned behavior called discrimination.

        Like burning churches..
        Enlightened behavior…

        Khashoggi can tell us all about it…

        Can we re-litigate Brown v. Board?

    • Rayne says:

      Oh, gee, thanks for the blog pimp on your first comment. Do you think you could actually invest some effort here on the topic instead of a drive-by bashing of entities you don’t like and blog pimping?

      • P J Evans says:

        it’s a not-very-intelligent comment – it assumes that NR is the go-to site for coverage and that the Green Party actually has any ideas that are worth our time.

          • P J Evans says:

            I know. My brother and his wife were members at one time, but 10 or 15 years ago they changed to Dem. (My brother is farther left than me.)

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