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How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is being built | Grist
"Is it possible to come up with a solution to the climate crisis, the economic crisis, and the global crisis, all at the same time? New Consensus aims to find out."



"In the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, a progressive group called the Justice Democrats jumped into action. If the liberal establishment had failed to keep Trump from power, clearly it was time for some fresh political blood. The group embarked on a hunt for potential candidates, putting out a nationwide call for nominations of community leaders who might make good members of Congress.

The following year, Justice Democrats invited a few standouts among those nominees to “The Candidate Summit,” a gathering in Frankfort, Kentucky. You’ve already heard a lot about one of them: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — now a freshman Congresswoman, social media maven, and pied piper for American progressives.

But you probably have not heard about another one of the people there: 35-year-old grassroots organizer Demond Drummer, who was at the time cofounder of a group that teaches computer science to kids on Chicago’s South Side. At that summit, Drummer realized that running for office wasn’t for him, at least for the time being. Instead, it sparked another idea: Creating a new progressive think tank that would explore how to jumpstart a more equitable society.

That thought remained preliminary until the summer of 2018, when Drummer attended the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. He sat through the talks, but he wasn’t hearing about ideas that could begin to address the problems we face in this country. He had a realization: The people who are in power have no clue what has to happen next. That was his aha moment, he said. He went from being interested in starting up an organization to thinking, “this is the goal of my life.”

He wondered: What are the ideas that might fix the economy and heal the planet? Would it be possible to build an organization that could come up with a solution to the “climate crisis, the economic crisis, and the global crisis, which is rooted in the history of systematic injustice,” as he put it, all at the same time?

“That really got me interested in jumping in on this idea of building an organization,” he said. “That was the idea of New Consensus.”

Later that year, he started putting the concept into action. Drummer’s notion, from the start, was that the U.S. didn’t merely need to solve climate change. It needed an economic transformation, a re-envisioning and rethinking that would make it possible to put a sustainable future on solid ground.

He wasn’t the only one thinking this way — variations of this concept had been kicking around for several years, under the general rubric of a Green New Deal.

In the past five months, the Green New Deal has received reams of media attention. The hubbub is largely focused on Representative Ocasio-Cortez, who — with the help of a vocal cadre of young people affiliated with the activist group Sunrise Movement — popularized the idea.

In February, she, along with Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, introduced a non-binding resolution laying out the proposal’s goals. It whipped Washington into a frenzy. Democratic Senators vying for the 2020 presidential nomination lined up to cosponsor it, and parties on the right have been equally eager to skewer it.

As Ocasio-Cortez stoked the flames of public support for such a plan, Drummer realized the Green New Deal was the “best tangible, concrete expression of the kind of economics and politics that we were fighting for and trying to develop.”

All that noise and heat have obscured precisely what the Green New Deal is — the deeper ideas that motivate it, and the people who are getting it off the ground. Is it simply a climate plan with a progressive wish list tacked on, as most have described it? Or is it something far more powerful — a bid to shatter a calcified political establishment and take the economy in a new direction?

Building the team
At the same time that Drummer was hatching his plan, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, a Rhodes Scholar and former intern for Michelle Obama, was working as policy director for progressive Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed. She was developing forward-thinking ideas such as MichCare, a state-level single-payer healthcare plan, but the candidate’s bid for a new vision for Michigan failed. He lost to a more moderate candidate last fall.

Gunn-Wright was moving on, preparing to apply for law school, when Drummer approached her. He’d heard about her work for El-Sayed — her 11 policy proposals and 250 pages of policy documents — and wanted her to join his team. “Her reputation preceded her,” he said. She took him up on the offer.

Gunn-Wright and Drummer are now the core of New Consensus — “a policy shop that moves like an organizing shop,” as Drummer puts it — which is growing, but still only has a handful of employees. They have a formidable task in front of them: In less than a year, craft a nation-changing set of policies that can refocus the economy toward justice and sustainability. The timeline is so short because by March 2020 at the latest, Ocasio-Cortez plans to introduce draft Green New Deal legislation in the House. If 10 months later, the Democrats gain control of the House, Senate, and Presidency — possible if unlikely, according to political pundits — portions of the Deal might have a shot at becoming law.

To be sure, New Consensus isn’t alone on this mission. Other players include the Sunrise Movement, the Justice Democrats (which counts Drummer as a board member), and, of course, Ocasio-Cortez’s office. But Drummer and his team, are, in his words, “playing quarterback” in translating its ideas into action."



"By connecting climate action to more tangible issues like wages and health care, New Consensus also hopes to create a national strategy that everyone can get behind — and benefit from. Try explaining the importance of installing more solar panels to a single mother who can’t get childcare, Gunn-Wright said. Illuminating the connection between quality of life and climate action is how they’ll get everyone on board.

“For so long, we have talked about the climate in an abstract, global way — we talk about a reduction in emissions or we talk about keeping the global temperature from rising a particular number of degrees,” she said. “The way that climate change affects people is on a personal level.”

Besides, as Drummer pointed out, it’s not like the U.S. hasn’t spent billions upon billions of dollars on averting the complete collapse of our society in the past. He pointed to the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program passed in 2008 to rescue the American economy. Then he unfurled a quip that would serve him well if he ever does decide to run for Congress: “The same creativity that we used to bail bankers out of that collapse can be applied to finance our future and save the planet.”"
greennewdeal  alexandriaocasio-cortez  2019  policy  climatechange  economics  zoyateirstein  newconsensus  rhianahunn-wright  demonddrummer 
march 2019 by robertogreco

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