Spin It Right Round

Kyle Smith’s article deriding the Green New Deal highlights the double standards of Party politics.

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Last week, over at the National Review, Kyle Smith penned a lovely article deriding the announcement of Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. It’s remarkably well-written, and memorably describes the political fallout of the GND as “Hindenburg-crashes-into-the-Titanic-and-unleashes-Chernobyl”[1]. However, after I managed to stop laughing and read further, I noticed that his article also underlines another core element of the upcoming election cycle: a myopic moral double standard, and a willingness to utterly disregard the past in the pursuit of a good headline.

First of all: Kyle Smith isn’t wrong. Most early coverage pointed to the rollout of the Green New Deal being a media disaster [2] [3] [4]. If viewed (as many do) as an expansion of the Overton Window that brings both left-wing policy issues and solutions to the font of the national discussion [5] [6], the GND may have sacrificed short term political gain for long-term viability, as it also introduced such memeable concepts as “taxing cow farts” and “shutting down all air travel”. In short, it’s a public relations disaster brought on by the Democratic Party’s relative zeal in falling in line behind one of their brightest (and greenest, if you’ll excuse the pun) media stars, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Tellingly, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did her level best to distance herself from the GND without outright dismissing it over the course of the last few weeks [7]. Smith rightly mocks the entire spectacle.

However, selling it as an enormous victory for the Republicans is utterly failing to grasp our short-term history, and is an obscene overestimation of the political reactivity of the public to scandal. For one, I have no doubt that the debacle surrounding the (rollout of the blueprint for the) GND will be almost entirely forgotten by this time next year; it’s about as solid a political truncheon as would be a stick of salami.

While all the criticism launched at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the GND by Smith is warranted, his unrestrained glee sounds off coming from a member of the Party that has been willingly following Donald Trump as their political leader for the past four years. Almost everything that is currently being said about the GND was said in 2016, about Trump’s electoral platform. Of course, some partisan translation is required: “communist” for the GND becomes “xenophobic” for the wall, for example. But discounting that exception, all the major elements are there: financially irresponsible [8]; nonsensical [9]; alienating to moderates [10]; divisive within the Party [11].

Despite all of the above, the man who conceived of all of this is currently sitting in the Oval Office. Granted, it’s more likely that he’s watching television than working, but either way, we put him there, despite the insanity of his political programs.

All of this leads to one fact that shouldn’t be forgotten: outrage over (apparent) incompetence can only go so far. Both on the Left and the Right, partisans will prefer someone who speaks to their political ideals but fails to execute on them fully to someone efficient who offers only empty lipservice. Exactly that feeling was behind the rise of the Tea Party, the election of Donald Trump, and the current power shift in the Democratic Party. As such, pointing out the fallacies of any given position, while useful, will never be an effective strategy for convincing your political rivals in this climate of partisanship.

Granted, the fact that practicality is no longer a concern is incredibly dangerous; but suddenly paying outsized attention to details won’t curtail this development. The only way out is through a conflict of ideals.

1. Kyle Smith, “The Green New Deal’s Disastrous First Week”, The National Review, February 13 2019
2. Megan McArdle, “‘We’re Nuts!’ Isn’t a Great Pitch for a Green New Deal”, The Washington Post, February 7 2019
3. “The Problem with the Green New Deal”, The Economist, February 11 2019
4. Ross Douthat, “One Cheer for the Green New Deal”, The New York Times, February 9 2019
5. David Roberts, “The Green New Deal, Explained”, Vox, December 21 2018
6. Tom Toles, “That Fresh Air Is Coming From the Overton Window Ocasio-Cortez Threw Open”, The Washington Post, February 12 2019
7. Sean Morrison, “Green New Deal; Nancy Pelosi Brands Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Climate Change Blueprint a ‘Green Dream'”, The Evening Standard, February 7 2019
8. Tim Worstall, “Donald Trump’s Immoral Idea For Financing the Mexican Border Wall”, Forbes, April 5 2016
9. Teresa Puente, “Please Understand Just How Harmful Donald Trump’s Wall Would Be”, TIME, October 19 2016
10. Stanley Greenberg, “Republicans, Beware: Moderates Could Help Elect Clinton”, The Washington Post, May 12 2016
11. David Graham, “Which Republicans Oppose Donald Trump? A Cheat Sheet”, The Atlantic, November 6 2016

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