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‘Radical socialism’ and ‘cow farts’: Green New Deal opponents lash out as resolution gains momentum

A preview of what the fight over the historic effort is going to look like.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a news conference at the East Front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Image
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a news conference at the East Front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Image

President Donald Trump and other opponents of the Green New Deal resolution are already attacking the historic endeavor as impossible and a conduit for “socialism,” even as contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination line up behind the blueprint.

On February 7, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) released a bold resolution calling for the rapid decarbonization of the U.S. economy. Two days later, the president responded on Twitter, sarcastically encouraging Democrats to pursue the effort and lose elections in the process.

“I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal,” Trump wrote. “It would be great for the so-called ‘Carbon Footprint’ to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military – even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant!”

The president’s tweet reflects many of the talking points against the resolution that have swiftly emerged since its release.

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Once dismissed as an aspirational progressive goal, the Green New Deal has now emerged as an active force, co-sponsored by several presidential hopefuls in the Senate along with at least 65 Democratic lawmakers from the House. The resolution has also succeeded in making climate change a policy priority for the first time in at least a decade.

That show of support, however, has sparked an outpouring of opposition, offering a glimpse at what future fights over Green New Deal efforts could look like.

One major source of contention has been a fact sheet briefly published by Ocasio-Cortez’s office alongside a copy of the resolution. The FAQ document singled out air travel, indicating that reducing flights while expanding more environmentally-friendly train travel would be a priority, along with providing economic security for those “unable or unwilling to work” and a joking reference to getting rid of “farting cows.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s staff initially said that doctored versions of the FAQ were circulating, before ultimately taking down the FAQ from the representative’s website and arguing that they wanted the resolution to be presented without the fact sheet. Regardless of its origins and intent, however, the contents of the FAQ have struck a nerve with Green New Deal opponents.

Emissions from both air travel and agriculture — including bovine flatulence — play a significant role in global warming. Cow gas releases methane into the air at a staggering rate, producing around 40 percent of all greenhouse gases linked to agriculture. But a number of Green New Deal opponents seized on the FAQ’s comment in order to ridicule the resolution. Matt Whitlock, a senior advisor with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), claimed the Green New Deal promotes “cow-banning,” while the right-wing National Review attacked the resolution under a headline reading “Udder Madness.”

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Others attacked the cost associated with the resolution and argued the Green New Deal would hurt the economy. “Let’s vote on the Green New Deal! Americans deserve to see what kind of solutions far-left Democrats are offering to deal with climate change,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), sharing an opinion piece from Bloomberg on the price tag associated with the resolution.

“This outline of a Green New Deal is probably one of the most extreme attacks on consumer choice that could be conceived of in written form,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), in a statement.

Meanwhile, some attacks have swelled far beyond the actual content of the resolution. The Green New Deal takes its inspiration from the 1930s-era New Deal and would likely rely on many pieces of legislation — rather than one comprehensive proposal — in an effort to decarbonize while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Experts, for instance, have indicated that a massive infrastructure bill could be part of any efforts to make the resolution a reality. But Green New Deal opponents more broadly have linked the resolution to “radical socialism,” implying that it is unprecedented in the United States.

During House hearings last week, Republican lawmakers warned of a “Soviet-style” agenda that would gut the U.S. military. “The Democrats’ ‘Green New Deal’ brings to mind an insight from Churchill: Socialism may begin with the best of intensions, but it always ends with the Gestapo,” wrote Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in a swiftly-mocked Friday tweet.

In a statement also circulated Friday, the conservative Heartland Institute argued without an explanation that the resolution would turn the United States into a “poverty-stricken totalitarian dictatorship” and cited Venezuela, a country currently dealing with political and economic turmoil, as an example.

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“Extreme. That’s the only way to describe the socialist Green New Deal. With its failure in Venezuela, Ocasio-Cortez, Markey and their fellow democrats have picked a bad time to force socialism here in our country,” the think tank proclaimed.

Outcry from conservative lawmakers and organizations isn’t the only hurdle facing the Green New Deal. Some Democrats have also expressed skepticism, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who referred to the resolution as a “green dream” last week when asked for her reaction by Politico.

But that resistance is matched by growing support, not least of all from the Senate — presidential hopefuls Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are all co-sponsors of the Green New Deal. Other candidates for president, like Pete Buttigieg (D-IN), have also endorsed the resolution.

Their backing means 2020 presidential contenders are likely to make the issue a litmus test for Democratic candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has also been vocal about his support, as has Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) — both are seen as potential 2020 contenders themselves.

And whether Democrats back the resolution or not, they are likely to face fire from conservatives. Freshmen Democrats Antonio Delgado (NY) and Colin Allred (TX), for example, have not voiced support for the Green New Deal resolution, but the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is targeting both in new attack ads highlighting the lawmakers’ previous comments calling for climate action.

The resolution’s backers, however, aren’t concerned about 2020 and whether supporting a Green New Deal will help or hinder presidential campaigns. Ocasio-Cortez and Markey both said Thursday that they believe many Republicans will be open to aspects of the Green New Deal, something senior Democrats have said as well. In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez sounded an optimistic note on the resolution’s bipartisan appeal.

“I do think that when there’s a wide spectrum of debate on an issue, that is where the public plays a role,” she said. “And I do have trust… in my colleagues’ capacity to change and evolve and be adaptable and listen to their constituents.”