If you want a green new deal, you have to win first


I have been part of various online forums that have been discussing the “Green New Deal” being championed by some in the US Democratic Party. These forums are made up mainly of academics who have an interest in climate and environmental policy.

What was striking about the various discussions is that they were all technical/ideological. The need to do something about climate policy leads many of them to welcome the policy, while others had various objections to the workability of the details.

What was lacking was any kind of political discussion. Is a presidential candidate running in 2020 likely to be elected if he or she embraces the Green New Deal as part of the policy platform?

In the ideological and technical discussions that I was part of, it didn’t seem to occur to anyone that the first hurdle to any policy idea is that whoever is pushing it has to get elected if there is to be any chance of getting it through.

I write this while on a trip to the US. Speaking to various people, the question on everyone’s mind is whether President Trump will win a second term in office. The 2020 Presidential campaign has started.

Those who dislike the President split into two camps.

In the first camp is what I will call ‘the incredulous’. Those who still cannot believe that Trump actually got elected and who believe that, having seen him in action, the electorate will obviously see the error of its ways and vote him out next time. These are the same type of people who seem to take for granted that a second Brexit referendum will inevitably lead to a reversal of the original decision.

The other group are ‘the despairing’. They fear that the visceral dislike of President Trump combined with Bernie Sanders’ good performance (among the Democrat base) in the primaries last time around are leading the Democrats to lurch to the left – with the Green New Deal as part of that lurch.

They fear that such a move will almost guarantee Trump a second term, since many in the American heartland will not countenance supporting a candidate proposing a massive increase in government-run programmes.

If President Obama had such trouble getting support for a universal health care programme where individual voters stood to gain directly, what are the chances that a mass of American voters will support a ‘Big Government’ environmental programme where the direct benefits to them may be seen to be more amorphous?

They keep hoping that a moderate Democratic candidate will emerge and can win the nomination. It’s going to be one heck of a bun fight. Around 20 candidates have already declared.

As for those of a Republican bent, they seem more relaxed. Even those who initially disliked the President now seem to have made their peace with him – or at least have stopped worrying too much about him. And they believe that the Democrats are embarked on a path to self-destruction – proposing big, tax-funded programmes for almost everything except that which voters really care about – such as immigration.

We shall see how all this evolves. There is still time. Maybe someone will even mount a successful primary challenge to President Trump for the Republican nomination.

It’s going to be an interesting couple of years in American politics.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.


  1. Laurence C says

    I suspect that abortion (Republicans seeking to overturn Roe v Wade) and socialism (Republicans against any increase in taxes on the rich) will be far more important Republican issues for the 2020 Presidential election. The Green New Deal will be very much a second-order effect.

    As Bill Clinton knew “It’s the economy, stupid” and economics will decide the election. If the US economy is in recession in 2020, then Trump is toast. If it is still going gangbusters, whatever the outlook, he will be re-elected.

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