The case for green nationalism

The “Green New Deal” is already as divisive as its contents are sketchy. Is it a brilliant move by Democrats to move the Overton Window in a progressive direction by tying the crisis of global warming to the transformation of America into a social democracy? Or is it a political suicide vest that gives the Republicans a huge opening to run as the party that will save America from turning into Venezuela?

The answer depends greatly on how popular you believe the other social democratic elements of the non-binding resolution are.

The key political weakness of the cause of decarbonization has always been that it reeks of austerity: more expensive energy, more expensive flights, even less red meat. From that perspective, the GND makes an important stride by linking environmentalism to equality instead: universal health care, strong unions, more affordable housing. There’s nothing in the GND about taxing carbon, no suggestion that we’re going to use the market to make sure the pain of decarbonization is spread efficiently, which in practice would mean spreading it regressively. Instead, there’s a lot of deficit-financed spending — and jobs — to build out a new energy and transportation infrastructure that sits naturally next to the other promises of the social democratic wish list.

The risk of the strategy, obviously, is that America may not be ready to vote for full social democracy. Staking out a more aggressively left-wing position across the board could move the Overton Window — but it could also backfire if the opposition simply says “no.” That’s what happened to Republican attempts to privatize Social Security in the second Bush administration; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply refused to negotiate at all or propose any alternative solution to a problem she considered illusory. The privatization proposals collapsed from unpopularity, and the next Republican president won both the nomination and the presidency on a platform that included promises to protect broad-based entitlements.

That has also been the Republican approach to the problem of climate change: deny there’s any crisis at all and refuse to negotiate on that basis — and it’s been a pretty effective strategy. In fact, that’s one reason why progressives are advocating a much bolder approach: Incrementalism has won them no allies on the other side of the aisle.

So suppose you think America isn’t ready for full social democracy — or that the full progressive wish list would lead to stagnation and bankruptcy — but you aren’t a climate denialist. On the contrary, you think the most alarming warnings of mainstream climate science are all-too plausible.

To actually move the whole conversation in a green direction, you need to change the right as well as the left. Not by moderating the right, but by finding ways to “green” its motivations.

You need the Green New Deal to be answered with a Green New Nationalism.

Nationalism seems like a strange response to a massive problem of collective action. But nationalism is actually the most effective motivator for collective action that we know. Indeed, …read more

Source:: The Week – Science


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