The first clue that MSNBC’s Friday night townhall on the Green New Deal was going to be unusually political — even for MSNBC — came during the opening introduction. Chris Hayes narrated a monologue that warned the world is facing a “civilizational challenge” and said the “clock is ticking.” Likening the Green New Deal to Americans’ storming the beaches of Normandy and landing a man on the moon, Hayes positioned the proposal as an opportunity for America to once again do “big things.”
“The Green New Deal is a vision for reinventing American society around a carbon free economy that works for everyone,” Hayes admitted at the outset. ”There’s an urgency and a rising generation of Americans across the world that realize the clock is ticking and getting close to running out. Into the vacuum is a broad new policy proposal and you probably heard about it; it’s called the Green New Deal. It envisions a carbon-zero economy by the middle of the century and a transformation of society. Some call it a social monster. Some call it our only hope for survival in the way of life we hold dear.”
The proposal’s principal backer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a self-described Democratic Socialist, entered the stage to such rapturous applause that even Hayes joked about the “hostile crowd.”
Over the course of the next hour, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, as she’s nicknamed herself, made clear that her original Green New Deal proposal — a widely mocked outline that called for everything from “retrofitting” every building in America to single-payer health care to a universal basic income (including for those “too lazy” to work) to slavery reparations to a federal jobs program to so much more — was indeed completely serious.
When a former congressman at one point suggested the priority should be on saving the world’s environment, and that the universal basic income component of AOC’s Green New Deal could come later, the crowd booed and jeered him.
AOC, a firm believer that Planet Earth only has 12 years to be saved from a global warming-sparked apocalypse, opened by telling Chris Hayes “there will be no future” if the United States fails to adopt her proposal:
“So this issue is not just about our climate,” she acknowledged at the outset. “First and foremost we need to save ourselves, period. There will be no future for the Bronx. There will be no livable future for generations coming, for any part of this country in a way that is better than lot that we have today if we don’t address this issue urgently and on the scale of the problem.”
AOC said the panoply of popular progressive proposals making up her Green New Deal — free college, free housing, single-payer health care, “social and racial justice” — are all inextricably intertwined, and that it’s foolhardy to pursue them individually.
“We have run away income and equality, we’re at one of our most unequal points economically speaking in American history,” she said. “We are dealing with a crisis of how our economy is made up. Our economy is increasingly financialized. Which means we’re making profits off of interest and off of leasing your phones, off of doing all these things, but we’re not producing and we’re not innovating in the way we need to as an economy. And I also was looking at our issues of social justice, social and racial justice which we are- which we have a nexus here in the Bronx. And I started thinking about to myself was listen, we’re looking at all of these issues, Medicare for all living wage, tuition-free public colleges and universities. And there’s this false idea we need put them in a line and say do this or do that. You care about health care or do you care about the economy or jobs? And then I started to realize that these are not different problems. These are all part of the same problem.”
When AOC first released an outline of the Green New Deal, it was widely mocked for including such overzealous goals as phasing out cows and air travel. During the MSNBC forum, AOC blamed one of her staffers who was having a “really bad day,” for publishing what she said was just a “working draft.” However, moments later, she doubled down on her legislation addressing cow flatulence. Instead of “ending cows,” a law could instead be passed that requires an adjustment to cows’ diets that makes their flatulence healthier for the environment, she suggested.
In one of the early moments that made clear the Green New Deal is more about a Democratic Socialist revolution than it is about the environment, AOC bizarrely claimed that every environmental problem can be solved if income inequality is completely eliminated.
“Here’s the deal, the deal is that we could solve all the environmental issues in the world if those climate policies and solutions are drafted on to the existing framework of economic injustice, then we will perpetuate our social problems and so even if you do pass — and the yellow vests in France are a perfect example of what happens when you do not address economic and social justice in the same sweep as climate policy,” she said. “Because what happens is that A, the policy becomes unsustainable. B, society starts to fall apart, which is what happens in income inequality and then C, we don’t actually solve the environmental issue.”
AOC is careful to ensure her Green New Deal includes benefits for Democrats’ usual left-wing constituencies. Describing the potential of a massive, federally-directed public jobs program, Ocasio-Cortez said these workers would all be unionized: “And the other note is this is not just about what industries we’re going to grow. It’s about how we’re going to grow them. One of the reasons that we are really moving in the direction that we are moving in with good, dignified, unionized jobs.”
The leading policy person behind the Green New Deal, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, said it’s critical that this ostensibly eco-focused proposal also include “universal child care,” so that minority communities would be freed up for “training” to play a role in this Green New World.
But the most revealing moment came when a former Republican congressman (who is now a global warming activist), Bob Inglis, suggested a more pragmatic approach to getting the Green New Deal enacted would be to focus first on the environment and later on things like a “universal basic income.” The crowd, already juiced with idealistic calls for a socialist remaking of the country, began heckling and booing him, with someone audibly shouting “moron!” The chaos only stopped when AOC interjected. But these participants were only responding to the atmosphere she created. Inglis’ pitch for pragmatic socialism instead a total revolution went nowhere; AOC devotees view anything short of a complete remaking of America as selling out.
Add it all up, and AOC is indeed pitching a radical remaking of American society — from one that’s historically defined by individual liberty and free markets — to one defined by state-control and eco-theology. It’s a plan that leaves no facet of Americans’ daily lives untouched by the long, judgmental arm of Washington. The Green New Deal’s scope and mandate for legislative authority amounts to a radical grant of power to Washington over Americans’ lives, homes, businesses, travel, banking, and more.
These are radical politics, and MSNBC on Friday night did everything in its network’s power to normalize them.
This was, to put it plainly, dangerous television.