Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t running for president. In fact, she can’t. At 29, she’s six years younger than the minimum age necessary to constitutionally attain the office.
However, in a Democratic presidential nomination contest where staking out a suitably liberal position on climate change is a must, getting on the good side of the Green New Deal’s author and most vociferous promoter could be an important thing.
Joe Biden is finding that out in a very public fashion.
Biden, you may have heard, got in a bit of a kerfuffle with Ocasio-Cortez over a Reuters report that sources close to the campaign had said the former vice president was looking to run on a “middle ground” climate policy.
“Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is crafting a climate change policy he hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump, according to two sources, carving out a middle ground approach that will likely face heavy resistance from green activists,” Reuters reported last week.
“The approach, which has not been previously reported, will set Biden apart from many of his Democratic rivals for the White House who have embraced much tougher climate agendas, like the Green New Deal calling for an end to U.S. fossil fuels use within 10 years. That could make Biden, vice president under Obama, a target of environmental groups and youth activists ahead of next year’s primary elections.”
“I respect where they [activist groups] are coming from,” Heather Zichal, one of Biden’s climate change advisers, told Reuters. “What we learned from the Obama administration is unless we find middle ground on these issues, we risk not having any policies.”
Whether or not Biden will be “a target of environmental groups and youth activists ahead of next year’s primary elections” remains to be seen, but the plan certainly earned the ire of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.
She said American politicians had been warned in 1989 — the year she was born — that “global warming” was a threat.
“I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need to find a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a Green New Deal event in Washington on Monday.
“That is too much for me.”
CLIP: Rep. @AOC on #GreenNewDeal: “I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need to find a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives. That is too much for me.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 14, 2019
Biden didn’t let that go unanswered.
“You’ve never heard me say, ‘middle of the road, I’ve been middle of the road’ on the environment. Tell her to check the statements that I made, and look at my record,” Biden told reporters, according to the New York Post. “I don’t think she was talking about me.”
“This idea that I haven’t done anything, take a look at the record,” Biden said, adding that he called for a “green revolution” during his first run for the presidency in 1988. “That’s what I’d say. I’m sure she will get the time to look at it.”
So she wasn’t talking about him but he’s sure she’ll “get the time to look at” his record. Righty-o.
Of course, signing onto the Green New Deal in the general election is political suicide, but not signing onto it during the primaries may keep you from reaching the point where you can commit political hara-kiri next November.
According to Axios, eight of the serious candidates currently running for the 2020 Democrat nomination (I’m counting billionaire Universal Basic Income hawker Andrew Yang as serious and new-age charlatan Marianne Williamson as unserious) have signed onto the Green New Deal in whole and two others have done so in “spirit.”
This list includes six co-sponsors of the Green New Deal in the Senate: Cory Booker, Kirstin Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Yang and former Obama administration Housing Secretary Julian Castro, have both said they support the Green New Deal.
Former Texas Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, meanwhile, has his own $5 trillion plan which is kind of like the Green New Deal Jr.
Excepting South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Peter Buttigieg, this is basically everyone who has a statistical shot at the moment not named Joe Biden.
Biden’s position isn’t exactly “middle ground” by any reasonable definition of the word, mind you.
It includes signing back onto the Paris climate agreement — which President Donald Trump pulled out of — keeping strict Obama-era emissions requirements and fuel efficiency goals in place for vehicles, and support for onerous “cap-and-trade” regulations.
In the Democratic field, however, that makes Biden a conservative outlier. That might be a difficult position to be in when the primary electorate trends left.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s the clearest sign yet that the Green New Deal is becoming a shibboleth of the new Democratic Party: You’re either with it or you’re not serious about climate change.
She may be six years from being able to seek the office, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could be the most powerful Democrat not running for the nomination this year.
That’s something that should scare both Joe Biden and his coterie of climate advisers.
Not to mention the rest of the American public.
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