GUVERCIN: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responds to Green New Deal criticism


Opinion Column: The Bigger Picture

On February 7, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the Green New Deal, which has been a highly controversial and prominent topic in politics for the last few months. Many people, including people within the Democratic Party, have criticized it for being radical, unrealistically ambitious and simply impossible. Just as we all thought it had been beaten to death, during a House Financial Services Committee meeting on March 26, Ocasio-Cortez addressed the critics who called the deal “elitist” and pointed out its very obvious shortcomings. 

She passionately referenced examples like children in the Bronx, who she claimed are “suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country,” and the children in Flint, whose “brains are damaged for the rest of their lives.” She even mentioned that she personally received health insurance for the first time in her life just about a year ago. 

She refuted her critics using these representations and urged them to call those “elitist.” To someone who has never read the Green New Deal, it would seem like she was the only logical person in the room pointing out issues that are genuinely concerning. 

It is scientifically true that climate change is real and that current environmental conditions are harrowing. It is true that we do not have the best healthcare system in the world and that many people are suffering because of it. But her ongoing defense of this Green New Deal invalidates many of her claims and is the reason why she is being attacked, not due to the causes she is fighting for.

Many of these radical and unrealistic proposals have pushed away supporters and have called into question Ocasio-Cortez’s prowess as an active political member. Being active does not necessarily mean passionate, which she undoubtedly is. It means actually taking tangible and attainable steps to achieving realistic and constructive goals. “Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency,” according to the Green New Deal, is not a feasible goal

Furthermore, as outlined by her office’s Green New Deal FAQ sheet, which was quickly taken down from her official website after the deal was released, “get(ting) rid of farting cows and airplanes,” providing “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work,” “totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing” and “build(ing) charging stations everywhere” are not feasible goals. 

Many people come to Ocasio-Cortez’s defense by claiming that the Green New Deal is not meant to actually be enacted, but rather serve as a symbol or an instigator of change. This would especially be evident in the fact that the document does not provide any methods on how these policies can actually be implemented. 

But it is difficult to see what the point is of spending time, energy and money into a deal that is undoubtedly going to be shut down and receive backlash. It just seems like a failed door-in-the face technique attempt at getting Congress to do something with a preposterous request, but with no realistic, less-preposterous request to make up for it. 

If Ocasio-Cortez and her supporters truly wanted to make strides in environmental and social policies, why not take the same time, energy and money they put in the Green New Deal and make feasible pursuits rather than waste time and degrade their political reputations? On the other hand, if this deal was meant as a genuine attempt to get through Congress and change American infrastructures and institutions, there is cause for concern and a serious calling into question of the foresight and political competence of these figures. 

As for Ocasio-Cortez’s recent response to the Green New Deal backlash, it could have been a make-or-break moment for her, and she unfortunately blew it. She did not address a single statement or aspect of her proposal that was widely criticized and resorted to appealing to and arguing from emotion in order to legitimize her stance. 

Her stances on issues are not the main problems, it is her inability to stand behind her statements and justify them to others. 

Instead of addressing her real intentions with the Green New Deal and providing some sort of clarity to her statements — especially the more controversial and radical ones — she once again turned it into a glittery and ardent speech on how people are dying and making statements like “science should not be partisan.” Of course it should not, but what are you actually contributing? 

If Ocasio-Cortez could channel all of her passion and energy into tangibly attaining her noble pursuits rather than making a proposal, providing no real courses of action and being unable to stand behind it, she could potentially become more than just a figurehead.

Dilara Guvercin is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in philosophy and psychology. Her column, "The Bigger Picture," runs on alternate Fridays.

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