Raising the bar on the ‘Green New Deal’


There’s a lot of talk lately about the Green New Deal. 

The phrase was first used in the U.S. by Howie Hawkins, the Green party candidate for governor in New York state in 2010, 2014 and 2018. Howie says he stole it from the European Greens who’d been intrigued by the old American New Deal of the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt.

What it means European

Greens wanted to regulate the banking sector, something we can’t seem to do here. They wanted to raise wages, to shorten working weeks, to stimulate the economy with massive infrastructure upgrades and repair, and to pay for the whole thing with higher taxes on the rich ‒all of that straight out of the playbook of the 1930s ‒ plus putting the economies of their countries on a path to zero emissions.

Their vision included giving away the new green technologies, enabling such a transition to the Global South as reparations. Altogether it was a really ambitious and humane extension upon the old New Deal.

Some American Greens told Howie Hawkins that this was Democrat stuff; he replied that it was stuff rank-and-file Democrats still wanted. Democratic politicians, being who and what they are, had never been willing or able to deliver.

It’s possible

There was a wealth of reputable studies asserting that given the political will, it should be possible to get the U.S. economy to zero emissions by 2030, so that became the package upon which Hawkins based his 2010 NY gubernatorial campaign. Economic human rights, guaranteed jobs at living wages, decent housing for all, Medicare for All, curbing military spending, and an absolute ban on fracking ‒ which all the corporate-funded environmental organizations in 2010 in the Obama era were saying was “the bridge to the future.”

When Howie Hawkins was polling at 15 percent in 2014, Democrats put Zephyr Teachout in the governor’s race to bring him back down to 5 percent, but the fracking ban and some other elements of the Green New Deal were also borrowed by some Democratic politicians. Eventually, New York adopted a statewide fracking ban.

Nationally known

Howie Hawkins was part of the team which adapted the Green New Deal proposals to the campaign of Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016. Stein was able to get on the ballot in all but three states. although she was banned from the debates and most corporate media coverage, her campaign did more to popularize the notion of a Green New Deal than anything that happened before.

Insurgent Democrat congressional campaigns all over the country were mouthing the words “Green New Deal.” Though nearly all of them who had actual opposition from established Democrats lost, except Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and a couple others, the notion in some form or other is now part of the political language.

Even in the mouths of Democrats, the Green New Deal includes Medicare For All, a living wage, raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, and increased spending on infrastructure and education. Most Democrats ‒ even the so-called progressive ones, as we noted last year in Black Agenda Report ‒ refuse even to mention the military or the U.S. overseas empire, as if those things don’t exist.

They’re all over the map too on the green part of the Green New Deal, with many supporting fracking bans and others not.

But that too is to be expected. Democrats are not so much united around policy positions as they are united behind their presidential candidates or their president ‒ when they have one in the White House ‒ or against the president, when a Republican occupies that office.

Jobs, other issues

When Greens talk about a Green New Deal, they include jobs and affordable housing for everybody ‒ words you scarcely hear out of any Democrats’ mouths. Greens support a national fracking ban and placing the economy on a transition to zero emissions in the short run by leaving the oil, coal and gas deposits in the ground, finding other ways to generate the power we need, and guaranteeing the jobs of people in the transition ‒ also something you don’t hear from Democrats.

Greens also support drastic cuts in the military budget, the cessation of support for  apartheid Israel, closing the empire of 1,000 U.S. military bases around the world, and more.

The New York Greens even have a state-level climate bill with multiple legislative sponsors which would commit local governments and the state’s agricultural, energy, transportation and other sectors to specific goals on the road to zero emissions. If other Green parties on the state level are even minimally serious about pushing a Green New Deal, this is something we should expect to see them emulate and imitate in other states. It’s how we raise the bar.

Moving our state

I’m in Georgia, and we expect to have a Georgia Green Climate Bill ready to walk the legislature with this session. We’ll be inviting legislators to sponsor and introduce it, or to borrow or steal provisions from it as they choose.

When our party achieves ballot access for 2020, our state legislative candidates will be running on its provisions, including a statewide fracking ban and a bar to imported fracked gas, job guarantees for displaced people in the energy sector, and the creation of milestone targets for sectors of our state’s economy on the road to zero emissions by 2030.

State level action like this is a vitally important part of building the constituency for and the sense of possibility around a Green New Deal and a just transition.


Bruce Dixon is managing editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. Contact him at bruce. dixon@blackagendareport. com.


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