AOC is asking the questions that activists need to know, and the Green New Deal is the anti-despair program we need to end the addiction crisis
By Abraham Gutmanagutman@philly.com The Green New Deal is the anti-despair program we need to end the addiction crisis | March 14, 2019
The Green New Deal, the ambitious plan proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to deal with climate change, has drawn a lot of attention and speculation, including at this week’s big energy conference in Houston. Beyond criticism that actually has nothing to do with the plan — such as President Donald Trump suggesting that reliance on wind power means that people could watch television only when the wind blows, and the Republican National Convention calling the plan a “war on cows” — many call the plan too ambitious and too costly.
But there is a side of the Green New Deal that is being ignored: It’s a public health program that will save hundreds of thousands of lives. Imagine that Congress found out that a foreign power is planning an attack on the U.S. that would kill 70,000 people. Can you see anyone claiming that measures to prevent the attack, and mitigate its damage, are too ambitious or costly? Probably not.
We hear politicians talk about the “opioid epidemic.” The truth is that America is facing two linked but different crises. The first is the acute overdose crisis that is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of people every year. The second bigger and more difficult crisis is the one of chronic despair that is pushing millions of people into addiction.
The reason we are seeing a rise in both addiction and overdose death right now in American history is because our society is increasingly unequal, and offers less services to those in need. It has become unlivable to millions of people. Through structural racism, inequality, and social isolation, America manufactures pain. And drugs are good at easing pain. But when drug use becomes addiction, the drugs no longer offer relief, but instead create more pain through withdrawal, stress, and criminalization.
If we truly want to end the overdose crisis, we must address the despair crisis, the pain that far too many Americans experience by just living in our society.
Any wonder that millions of people are choosing the warm embrace of alcohol, opioids, meth, or crack over fighting a social mobility battle that is rigged against them? In 2015, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton coined the term “deaths of despair” to describe the rise in midlife deaths related to alcohol-related liver disease, overdose, or suicide. In a 2017 follow-up analysis, they explain: “Increasing distress, and the failure of life to turn out as expected, is consistent with people compensating through other risky behaviors, such as abuse of alcohol, overeating, or drug use.” In other words: America is just not holding up its end of the bargain that was sold to us as “the American dream.” That was always apparent for communities of color, and it is increasingly apparent for white people, namely low- and middle-income ones.
The Green New Deal is the shift we need to give people something to look forward to. It starts by offering a future for the planet by cutting emissions and upgrading buildings. It goes forward by stating that it is the role of the federal government to ensure that every person has a “job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security.” By providing health care, housing, and food, the Green New Deal offers people a chance to remain well, even when times are tough.
We are still a long way from figuring the nuts and bolts on how exactly to achieve these goals. But the Green New Deal does something that no other proposal has done: look at the interconnected challenges of our society and offer a comprehensive anti-despair program. That’s how we defeat addiction.
02/28/2019, Huffington Post:Behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Masterful Interrogation Of Michael Cohen: The questions that won the New York congresswoman praise were the combined product of committee staff expertise, collaboration and oratory skills. By Daniel Marans and Paul Blumenthal
Ocasio-Cortez’s testimony focused primarily on Trump’s alleged deflation of his financial assets in order to lower his tax burden.
First, she zeroed in on Trump Links, a golf course in Ocasio-Cortez’s district that was constructed with $127 million in city taxpayer funds. The city’s deal with Trump nonetheless stipulated that the Trump Organization could keep all of the profits it earned from the course for the first four years.
“This doesn’t seem to be the only time the president has benefited at the expense of the public,” Ocasio-Cortez said, pivoting to the heart of the matter: Whether Trump deliberately deflated the value of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, to lower his local property tax bill.
“To your knowledge, was the president interested in lowering his local real estate tax bills?” she asked.
“Yes,” Cohen responded.
Ocasio-Cortez confirmed from Cohen that obtaining Trump’s federal and state tax returns would help ascertain the extent of his tax evasion efforts. And she also identified other individuals, such as Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who could testify about Trump’s practices prior to Cohen’s arrival in the organization.
Notwithstanding her impressive performance, the secret to Ocasio-Cortez’s success was remarkably prosaic ― a team effort informed by the desire to uncover truth for the public’s benefit, according to staff.
“If there was one person that wasn’t involved in this question preparation and committee preparation, it wouldn’t have been as successful as it was,” said Klarissa Reynoso, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief legislative correspondent who supervised the congresswoman’s preparation for the hearing.
Working alongside intergovernmental affairs chief Randy Abreu, Reynoso began her research on Cohen last Thursday when the staff learned the date of Cohen’s committee testimony.
The professional staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform worked nonstop last weekend to draft a list of 35 questions that each Democrat on the panel could choose from, and put their own stamp on.
On Tuesday, after conferring with Ocasio-Cortez, Reynoso met with committee staff to select a question. She chose to pursue the line of inquiry about Trump’s efforts to devalue golf course property to lower his taxes.
“If we didn’t ask those questions we would be doing an injustice for the American people,” Reynoso explained. “We wouldn’t be doing our jobs.”
“She’s thinking in broad terms and she’s thinking about her constituents,” Reynoso added. “That’s what you saw in terms of the Bronx golf course.”
The original question drafted by committee staff only mentioned Trump’s Jupiter golf course. Abreu, who grew up in the Bronx’s Fordham neighborhood just outside Ocasio-Cortez’s district, suggested that they add a reference to Trump Links. The taxpayer-funded golf course in an affluent enclave of New York’s otherwise working-class 14th Congressional District was the perfect emblem of the kind of greed and cronyism Ocasio-Cortez is committed to combating, according to Abreu.
“It’s always been a good representation of the income inequality in the Bronx,” he recalled.
And Trump Links’ proximity to the Bronx-Whitestone bridge, which connects the Bronx part of Ocasio-Cortez’s district to the section in Queens, means that Ocasio-Cortez and her staff indeed see it regularly in the course of their travels in the district, which Ocasio-Cortez was sure to highlight.
“I drive past it everyday on my drive from the Bronx to Queens,” Ocasio-Cortez noted in the course of questioning Cohen.
Reynoso and Abreu drafted text of the question for Ocasio-Cortez, complete with references to supportive articles from The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Ocasio-Cortez edited the copy with her own flourishes and ad-libbed some of the delivery to make it as accessible as possible to the ordinary viewer.
“She worded the question in a way better to suit her voice,” Reynoso said. “She’s also a very unique Congress member in that you can completely trust her to basically succeed in asking” the question that Democratic committee staff wanted her to ask.
Since Ocasio-Cortez was one of the last oversight committee members to question Cohen, committee staff were also in constant real-time communication with Reynoso to make sure Ocasio-Cortez got a chance to follow up on questions for which other members had not received complete answers.
As a result, Ocasio-Cortez was able to pick up a line of questioning from Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) about the existence and whereabouts of a “treasure trove” of incriminating documents that American Media Inc. CEO and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker had allegedly assembled on Trump’s critics. Cohen confirmed that Pecker, Barry Levine and Dylan Howard would know about whether the trove still exists, laying the groundwork for the committee to potentially subpoena those three individuals.
In framing her question about Trump’s devaluation of assets for tax purposes, Ocasio-Cortez also nodded briefly to questions from fellow Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay of Missouri about instances in which Trump inflated his assets in order to obtain loans from Deutsche Bank. She confirmed from Cohen that Trump had provided inflated asset assessments to an insurance company in the past.
“We had to make sure we finished what other people had started,” Reynoso said.
Ocasio-Cortez’s star power has undoubtedly contributed to the exposure her committee exchanges have gotten. At age 29, she is the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, and as a democratic socialist who unseated one of the House’s most powerful Democrats, the congresswoman is a subject of extraordinary fascination for the media.
One advantage Ocasio-Cortez has over some colleagues is that she consistently attends even the most mundane committee hearings, since she does not spend any of her day calling donors for money. Her online presence is strong enough that she has chosen to rely on it exclusively to raise contributions in smaller increments.
But Reynoso and Abreu insist that her knack for clever questioning, which is a marked contrast with other members’ preference for grandstanding, is ultimately rooted in a commitment to moving the needle for her constituents.
“She’s an organizer and you can see that in her questions. She is asking questions that advocates need to know,” Reynoso said. “That is unique among most members.”
The pressure is intense. But beneath the caricatures, she says, “I’m not a superhero. I’m not a villain.”
On a bright Sunday morning in Sunnyside, Queens, a crowd of would-be marchers was milling about the intersection of 46th Street and Skillman Avenue. The St. Pat’s for All Parade was about to begin, but the main attraction was missing. “Do you think she will come?” asked one of the organizers holding on to a bright yellow banner picturing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district includes Sunnyside. A few minutes later, Ocasio-Cortez cut down Skillman Avenue, surprisingly small, in a long navy blue coat and creamy white scarf, and was instantly set upon by a scrum of photographers and marchers. “You don’t see a crowd like this for Chuck Schumer,” an older man said.
At this parade last year, Ocasio-Cortez said, people “were, like, running away from us.” At the time, she was in the throes of the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District against 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley. But now, she’s one of the most visible Democrats in the country, along with Nancy Pelosi—and she’s eclipsing Pelosi, and even Hillary Clinton, as a Republican target.
Ocasio-Cortez admits that the sudden fame has been disorienting. “At first, it was really, really, really hard. I felt like I was being physically ripped apart in those first two to three months,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “[On] June 25, outside of my immediate community, very few people knew who I was besides my friends. The night of June 26, there was only one local TV outlet at our election party, and then literally seven hours later I was getting picked up in some Escalade and driven to Morning Joe.”
Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t yet mastered the techniques of deflection; the bubble hasn’t fully formed around her. She lets people into her personal space for hugs and handshakes, and asks personal questions: Which neighborhood in the Bronx?The mass of marchers had hardly moved 10 yards before selfies with A.O.C. stopped its progress. Nearly an hour and a half after her arrival, Ocasio-Cortez swiftly split from the crowd and beelined toward a white van parked at the corner. A quick photo with bystanders, a smile and a wave later, and the van whisked her away. Later Sunday, the New York Post would announce “Ocasio-Cortez leaves parade in 17-mpg minivan—blocks from the subway.”
As we crossed the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge from Queens to meet Ocasio-Cortez at her apartment in the Bronx, we passed Trump Golf Links on the right. It’s a view Ocasio-Cortez knows well, and it inspired the line of questioning she directed at Michael Cohen,Donald Trump’s former lawyer and longtime fixer, the previous Wednesday. Since the Democrats reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives last fall, their approach to oversight has been measured and deliberate. Under Pelosi’s leadership, it isn’t enough just to request Trump’s tax returns. Democrats first needed to make a public case as to why it was necessary—not partisan. During Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee, A.O.C., prepped with careful staff work, did exactly that.
Back at her Parkchester apartment, Ocasio-Cortez tells me about that day. “I know that people underestimated me. My whole life I’ve been underestimated,” she said. That night, Ocasio-Cortez received a notification on her Apple Watch that her heart rate was unusually high that day. “It shows you the moment, and it was the moment when I was coming up in the Cohen hearing and my hands were shaking,” she said. “I do feel an intense amount of pressure. Every day for me feels like I’m walking on a high wire. Every single day.”
Where, exactly, Ocasio-Cortez lives has become something of an obsession on the right. The prospect that her apartment might belie her democratic-socialist bona fides was too juicy for her antagonists to pass up. In fact, the place is thoroughly unassuming, a two bedroom in a standard-issue brick building. The décor is typical for a twentysomething living in New York—geometric-patterned throw pillows on the sectional, a metal-framed round mirror, a snake plant. A.O.C. divides her time between this apartment and a spot in D.C. At one point, her longterm partner Riley Roberts, tall, with red hair and beard, drifted out from a back room. When I said that this experience must have been weird for him, too, he joked that all he had to do was pick up a few things. It was clear he didn’t want a sliver of the spotlight; he just wanted to make sure we didn’t take any photos that revealed the exact location of the apartment.
As with any famous, polarizing person, there are all manner of threats. Outside of Ocasio-Cortez’s office in the Cannon House Office Building in D.C., there is a wall of brightly colored Post-its with notes from her well-wishers. Inside, her communications director, Corbin Trent, said there is a wall of pictures of people who have threatened the freshman congresswoman. But Ocasio-Cortez is under no illusion that the right wing’s obsession will abate. “The whole goal is to dehumanize,” she said.
“IF I DON’T USE MY VOICE, THEN THEY WILL FILL THE VOID.”
A dominant theme of the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference was that Ocasio-Cortez is the ringleader of an insidious Democratic plot, in Senator Ted Cruz’s words, to “kill all the cows.” Former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka likened the freshman congresswoman’s ambitious Green New Deal to a Stalinist watermelon: “green on the outside, deep, deep red communist on the inside.” Donald Trump Jr. suggested that her socialist tendencies would lead to Americans eating dogs. The New York Postnoted that she’d failed to compost sweet-potato peels in an Instagram video.
Ocasio-Cortez sees caricatures like these as emblems of her strength. “When you bust out that door and you’re like, ‘No, I’m not going to let you make me feel that way’—it’s kind of jarring. It’s like, ‘Wait, she’s not stopping, and she’s supposed to stop,’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It can be very empowering to say, ‘Make fun of me. Do it. Draw the little insults on my face’”—she mimed a scribble in the air—“‘Do what you’re gonna do. Act more and more childish. Just do it, because you’re not gonna stop. You’re just not gonna stop this movement. You’re not gonna do it.’”
In her view, Trump, to a large extent, has defined this battle. “I’m gonna be very frank: I think that this president has set a racist tone. I think he has set a tone of such strong misogyny, racism, conspiracy theory-ism.”
“I think they saw a woman of color—Latina, no less—that came from a working-class and poor background, that ascended to federal office, and they said, ‘We cannot allow this to have credibility, because if people saw that she did it, then maybe others will come—and we cannot let other people like her run for office. We need to make an example out of her,’” Ocasio-Cortez told me.
That isn’t to say there aren’t times when Ocasio-Cortez would like to stop. “There’s definitely just this really deep feeling of vulnerability around it. You feel very vulnerable. You feel very targeted, because you are. But there are days where you just kind of want to run into a closet, and lock yourself in it, and just hope the world doesn’t find you. I’ve definitely had those days, but I find that it’s more effective to really work on being brave, and pushing anyway, because that’s the whole goal.”
“A lot of days, I don’t want to talk, believe it or not . . . The reality of the situation is that if I don’t define this moment, and if I don’t use my voice, then they will fill the void.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s critics, it seems, are always waiting for her to slip up—to say something inaccurate, to expose her relative inexperience, to provide anecdotes that support the narrative that she is a Communist moron. She is nonplused when I ask whether this dynamic scares her. “Absolutely,” she said, despite the no-holds-barred fearlessness she projects. “Every time I do make a mistake, in the smallest sense, I just feel the weight of the world on me. But I know that that is not a reason to stop,” Ocasio-Cortez explained. “I think one of the taboos that we’ve been breaking has been you can’t learn while you’re in office. You know?”
It is hard to imagine Ocasio-Cortez following in the footsteps of Crowley, and holding on to the NY-14 seat for decades while she works her way up the leadership ladder in the Democratic Party. Her star power seems too unbridled for that. No sooner had she beaten Crowley than people began to calculate what year she’d be old enough to run for president. Ocasio-Cortez has thought about other outcomes, too. “God forbid something terrible happens and everything collapses tomorrow . . . I completely walk away from office tomorrow. There will be more people that are coming and running and advancing the same principles,” she said. “I try to let that be my solace.”
Meanwhile, she says one thing people aren’t saying about her is that there is an ordinary reality beneath the caricatures. “It’s really hard to communicate that I’m just a normal person doing her best,” she shrugged. “I’m not a superhero. I’m not a villain. I’m just a person that’s trying.”
The Good News About a Green New Deal, The New Yorker, March 2019
Last month’s rollout of the Green New Deal, a fourteen-page legislative resolution, sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, that called for “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” through a ten-year “national mobilization,” has sparked a good deal of controversy. The resolution was larded with goals not directly tied to the environment, such as guaranteeing everyone a job, affordable housing, and high-quality health care, and even some energy researchers who are enthusiastic proponents of transitioning rapidly to a zero-emissions economy questioned the timetable of a single decade for converting power production entirely to renewable sources.
“I don’t think anybody who is deep inside the substance is talking about that,” Jonathan Koomey, a special adviser to the chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, told me. Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has helped design a number of Green New Deals for individual states, including New York and Washington, said, “I think it is wonderful that the issue is being addressed, but I don’t think this movement has yet accepted that you have to do these things carefully and rigorously.”
Despite these reservations, Koomey and Pollin, as well as a number of other researchers I spoke with, said the drafters of the Green New Deal were perfectly right to urge large-scale action across many parts of the economy, and they emphasized the technological opportunities that now exist to meet many of the environmental goals that underpin the proposed legislation, if not the exact timetable it lays down. In a report released in October, which the Democratic resolution cites and endorses, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that if the world is to contain the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon emissions must be reduced by about fifty per cent before 2030, and completely phased out before 2050. For a U.S. economy that currently relies on fossil fuels for about four-fifths of its energy, achieving zero emissions, or something close to it, by the middle of the century would be a historic transformation. And, according to all the researchers I spoke with, rapidly advancing technology and the falling costs of clean energy make this more achievable than ever.
“Right now, we have about ninety per cent or ninety-five per cent of the technology we need,” Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, told me. In a series of papers, Jacobson and his colleagues have laid out “roadmaps” to a zero-emissions economy for fifty states, fifty-three towns and cities, and a hundred and thirty-eight other countries, with a completion date of 2050. Just as in the Democrats’ Green New Deal, the central element of these roadmaps (and others) is converting the electric grid to clean energy by shutting down power stations that rely on fossil fuels and making some very large investments in wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal facilities. Jacobson said this could be completed by 2035, which is only five years beyond the target set out in the Green New Deal. At the same time, policymakers would introduce a range of measures to promote energy efficiency, and electrify other sectors of the economy that now rely heavily on burning carbon, such as road and rail transport, home heating, and industrial heating. “We don’t need a technological miracle to solve this problem,” Jacobson reiterated. “‘The bottom line is we just need to deploy, deploy, deploy.”
Saul Griffith, a materials scientist and inventor who is the chief executive of OtherLab, a San Francisco-based technology incubator that focuses on clean energy, agrees. In recent presentations, Griffith has sketched out an aggressive plan for switching to clean power and electrifying heating and transportation, which he says could be completed within twenty years. “It’s entirely reasonable to do it,” he said. “The United States is lucky because of its natural advantages. It’s a country with low population density, good wind, good solar, and good hydro resources. The only reason not to do it is political inertia and the influence of the existing fossil-fuel industry.”
Pollin is working on a national zero-emissions plan with an end date of 2050. He said it will combine many of the elements in the Green New Deal, such as stricter emissions standards, extensive public investments, and tax incentives for reducing carbon consumption and investing in clean energy. And, like the Democratic proposal, Pollin stresses the need to provide financial aid and retraining for people currently working in fossil-fuel industries, which would be shrunken drastically under any such plan. “It needs to be done, and it can be done,” he said. “But it needs to be done judiciously.”
Underlying a lot of the optimism is a steep fall in the cost of generating electricity from renewable sources. With the development of bigger wind turbines, the cost reductions associated with wind power have been particularly impressive. Mara Prentiss, a professor of physics at Harvard whose book “Energy Revolution,” from 2015, emphasized the potential of renewable energy, pointed out to me that doubling the diameter of a turbine yields four times as much power, and that some modern turbines have diameters of a hundred metres. Costs have also fallen sharply in the solar-power industry, where there has been great progress in building more cost-efficient photovoltaic systems, including solar cells, inverters, and transformers. Just a decade ago, Pollin pointed out, electricity generated from sunlight cost about twice as much as electricity generated from coal; now, the costs are roughly equal.
Every year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration calculates a levelized cost of electricity, or L.C.O.E., which represents the average per-megawatt-hour cost of building and operating a power-generating plant over the course of its life cycle. For power facilities that would enter service in 2023, the E.I.A. estimated the L.C.O.E.s of onshore wind and solar at $42.80 and $48.80, respectively, compared with $40.20 for advanced natural-gas power stations. (The L.C.O.E. of nuclear would be around ninety dollars). Some existing coal-fired plants are cheaper, but they are also very dirty. In calculating the future cost of electricity generated from coal, the E.I.A. assumes that new coal-fired plants would be built with sophisticated systems to capture and sequester carbon emissions. Allowing for this requirement, the E.I.A. estimates the L.C.O.E. of coal-powered plants entering service in 2023 at close to a hundred dollars.
These figures suggest that, going forward, electricity generated from renewable sources will be competitive with natural gas, and cheaper than coal and nuclear power. (And these figures don’t take into account the existing tax credits for investing in clean energy. When these credits are included, the L.C.O.E.s of onshore wind and solar are even lower: $36.60 and $37.60, respectively.) In some parts of the country, energy consumers are already benefitting from these trends. Prentiss pointed out to me that Iowa now generates more than thirty-five per cent of its electricity from wind. The retail cost of electricity in the state is 8.73 cents per kilowatt-hour, she said, compared to a national average of 10.48 cents.
Iowa, of course, is a windy state. People need electricity all the time, regardless of the weather. For this reason, among others, the E.I.A. analysis pointed out that care should be taken in comparing the costs of different types of power. Defenders of fossil fuels go further. In a recent article about the Green New Deal, Myron Ebell, an analyst at the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, which receives some of its funding from oil and gas companies, wrote that the electricity grid “cannot operate on 100% intermittent and variable power—or even 50%.”
Optimists like Jacobson and Prentiss didn’t deny the challenge in shifting to intermittent sources of power, which include dealing with seasonal variability and storing energy for long periods. But they point out that the development of modern grids, which use high-voltage direct-current lines, has made these issues easier to handle. In a series of papers, Jacobson and his colleagues have used simulations to demonstrate how it would be possible in theory to rely entirely on electricity generated from renewable sources. “If you interconnect over a very large area, you smooth out the supply,” Jacobson explained. “When the wind is not blowing in one place, it is in another. And solar and other sources, such as hydro and geothermal, complement that, too.”
Koomey said researchers generally agree that getting to eighty-per-cent reliance on renewable sources of electricity is now a practical option. “The issue is more getting from eighty to one hundred,” he said. “I don’t know yet if one hundred per cent is possible. What I do know is that the cost trends are heading in that direction. And if we can solve the problems like seasonal heat storage, we can deal with most of the remaining challenges.” When I asked Koomey about the skeptics, such as Ebell, he replied, “The folks who are saying you can’t get to fifty-per-cent or eighty-per-cent intermittency are the same folks who were saying you can’t get to two per cent when wind and solar first came on.”
To guarantee a reliable electricity supply, Koomey suggested keeping some nuclear and natural-gas plants running, at least during the transition. (The Green New Deal rules out gas plants but doesn’t rule out keeping some existing nuclear plants running for a time.) But rather than focussing on the challenges of going all the way to a hundred per cent, the most important thing is to recognize the scale of the transformation necessary and get started on it immediately, Koomey insisted. “So far, all the tweaking around the edges hasn’t reduced carbon emissions nearly enough,” he said. “You need to start shutting down high-carbon infrastructure on a schedule, and you need to stop building new carbon infrastructure. Ultimately, there is no other way.”
Even if we did succeed in creating an electricity grid entirely powered by renewable energy, getting to zero carbon emissions for the over-all economy would involve overcoming some tough problems, such as finding practical ways to store large amounts of energy for longer periods of time, and weaning long-distance air travel and commercial shipping from the fossil fuels on which they now rely. (Jacobson and Prentiss insisted that there are technological fixes on the way in these areas, too, such as the development of better lithium batteries, and advanced hydrogen fuel cells; Prentiss also emphasized the possibilities of low-carbon biofuels and synthetic fuels.) In a recent article, Pollin argued that large-scale investments in energy efficiency, such as retrofitting buildings and switching to electric car engines, which waste a lot less energy than internal-combustion engines, “can cut U.S. per capita energy consumption by roughly 50 percent over twenty years.” Even then, though, the investments needed in wind and solar would be very substantial. In “Energy Revolution,” Prentiss calculated that satisfying the country’s total average energy needs with wind power would require covering about fifteen per cent of the U.S. landmass with wind farms, and relying entirely on solar power would require about one to 1.5 per cent of the landmass to be devoted to solar farms. Not for nothing does the Green New Deal resolution talk of a Second World War-style mobilization.
To illustrate how such a clean-energy economy might work, Jacobson brought up his own home on the Stanford campus, which has solar panels on the roof, two lithium batteries in the garage, and an advanced electric heat pump. “I have no gas or oil bills, no electricity bill, and no gasoline bill for cars, either,” Jacobson said. “And I generate twenty per cent more energy than I need, so I get paid five hundred dollars by the utility.” Jacobson estimated the up-front cost of equipping his house was about sixty thousand dollars. “With the subsidies that the government provides, it is a five-year payback,” he said. “Without the subsidies, it would be a ten-year payback.”
How much would it cost to create a national version of Jacobson’s domestic economy? There are at least two ways to answer this question. The first is to look at up-front capital costs. The other is to consider long-term trends in energy costs, and to consider the large-scale social and economic dislocation that may result if we don’t drastically reduce carbon emissions.
According to Jacobson, his plan to convert the United States to clean energy would cost between ten trillion and fifteen trillion dollars, in total, depending on how it was implemented. If the plan was enacted over thirty years, that would come out to as much as five hundred billion dollars a year, or about 2.5 per cent of current G.D.P. Pollin’s estimates are a bit higher. To meet the I.P.C.C. emissions targets, he reckons that wealthy countries such as the United States need to invest about three per cent of current G.D.P. per year expanding renewable sources and raising energy-efficiency standards, compared to the current figure of 0.5 per cent.
Interestingly, a new analysis of the Democrats’ Green New Deal from the conservative American Action Forum contains figures that are comparable to Jacobson’s and Pollin’s. Taking the midpoints of its estimates, the study says it would cost $10.3 trillion to create a low-carbon electricity grid, a net-zero emissions transportation system, and to “upgrade all existing buildings” to higher energy-efficiency standards. Spread out over thirty years, the cost would be about three hundred and forty billion dollars a year, or 1.7 per cent of current G.D.P.
To be sure, that’s a large sum. But it’s less than half of the annual defense budget, and the taxpayer wouldn’t have to supply all of it. In almost all the academic transition plans that are out there, most of the capital would come from private investors and companies. The federal government would certainly make some substantial investments, too. But its main role would be to enforce strict emissions standards, provide tax breaks for investments in renewables and energy efficiency, raise carbon taxes to discourage fossil-fuel consumption and help finance the transition, and provide support for communities that are adversely affected. The great bulk of the energy industry, including most of the new wind and solar farms, would remain privately owned. Like the original New Deal, this would be managed capitalism rather than state socialism.
For actual policymaking, coming up with detailed proposals in all of these areas would obviously be critical. But the first challenge is to recognize the transformative possibilities that exist and establish ambitious goals. The Green New Deal does that. It holds out the prospect of a future in which U.S. carbon emissions are massively reduced, if not entirely eliminated, and clean, economical energy is readily available to all. That, surely, is an attractive vision.
The next step is resolving the details and mobilizing support from a broad range of individuals and groups. Both will be necessary to make progress, which the organizers of the Green New Deal recognize. “The goal has always been to release a plan by January 2020 that will include all the major elements of a pathway to zero emissions,” Rhiana Gunn-Wright, the policy lead for the Green New Deal at New Consensus, a progressive policy group, told me. Gunn-Wright said she and her colleagues were making arrangements for extensive consultations with energy experts, environmental activists, and representatives of communities that would be impacted. “A green transformation will affect everyone,” she said, “so we think that everyone should be at the table in the policymaking process.”
Some of the energy researchers I spoke with are already getting involved in that process. Griffith has been talking with people associated with Ocasio-Cortez, and last month he testified to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Pollin is drafting a national plan, which he intends to submit to policymakers in Washington. The rollout of the Green New Deal may have been troubled, but it has started something.
The unexpectedly competitive Democratic primary of 2016, pitting Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders, quickly became a battle of “progressives” versus “progressives who get things done.” And in the Democrats’ search for identity following Clinton’s soul-crushing general election loss to Donald Trump, Democratic candidates at all levels throughout the 2018 election cycle wore the progressive badge, even if their definition of “progressive” was sometimes rather ambiguous.
Now, there’s a Democratic majority in Congress, and along with it a diverse class of new lawmakers proposing an agenda which is resolutely radical by the standards of the last 50 years of American politics, on issues ranging from climate change to healthcare to America’s interventions in other countries.
For nearly 30 years, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has been the primary legislative home for the Democratic left. Formed in 1991 by a small group of House lawmakers, including longtime Rep. Maxine Waters and Sanders, and currently chaired by Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan, the CPC now boasts over 90 members. With such large numbers—and with both progressive ideas and left-wing politicians as influential as they have been in generations—the CPC is, in theory, ideally placed to wage significant influence in Washington.
But historically, that’s not how the CPC has operated. While Republican groupings like the House Freedom Caucus operate as a unified army, the CPC tends to let its members go their own way. And despite its name, it doesn’t even have an ideologically unified makeup; in fact, over a dozen members of the CPC also have membership in the New Democratic Coalition, which has historically represented the more pro-business wing of the party.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a top liberal in the House who serves as the vice chair of the CPC, doesn’t see a problem with this. “My view is, have people of different viewpoints, have a healthy debate, and ultimately they’ll be persuaded to see the merits of things like single-payer, of a trillion dollar infrastructure plan, of a $15 minimum wage,” Khanna told Splinter. “We shouldn’t get hung up on whether someone’s part of two caucuses or three caucuses. What we should focus on is making the substantive argument.”
A central problem facing progressives, however, is that Congress is notoriously resistant to enacting the kind of sweeping social and economic change that the left proposes. And some of the boldest progressive proposals, such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, have run into stiff opposition from the Democratic leadership, let alone from the GOP or big business.
All of this leads to a simple, central question: What, exactly, is the CPC for these days? It remains to be seen whether the caucus and its allies can make a progressive agenda a reality. For now, perhaps the more pressing question is how they go about doing that—and how much trouble they are willing to cause in the process.
The CPC was launched during the final year of the Soviet Union and a year before Bill Clinton won the presidency. The Democratic Party’s priorities of the time reflected that rightward drift.
At the time, Tom Foley of Washington was the Speaker of the House. “The CPC and the Congressional Black Caucus were a pushback against the influence of [conservative Democrats] at the time,” Bill Grover, a presidential historian and political science professor at Montana State University who served as a legislative aide for Sanders during his first term in the House, told Splinter. “The conservatives really had their hands on the policy lever through the Speaker.”
Even in the early 1990s, the CPC’s priorities weren’t far off from what they are today. In 1996, the caucus held hearings on what they called the “silent depression,” those left behind by a then-booming economy.
Rep. Barbara Lee of California, a former co-chair of the group and a leading progressive voice in Congress over the past two decades, told Splinter that, by the time she arrived in the House in 1998, the caucus had grown in size; one member at the time was Nancy Pelosi. The group’s activity, however, was still driven by just “five or six members who were really active,” who would have what she called “small dinner meetings.”
Lee said that she began to push more coordination with outside organizers and progressive groups. “I come from the Bay Area,” she said. “We have to have people power.”
During the Bush years, the group steadily began to make more noise, even after Democrats won control of Congress in 2006 with an explicit strategy to elect conservative Democrats in swing seats. In 2007, an offshoot of the CPC called the Out of Iraq War caucus—founded by Lee, who was then a CPC co-chair—forced a vote on withdrawing troops from Iraq in May 2007. The bill failed, but the next year, Barack Obama won the presidency while promising to withdraw troops from Iraq. (Of course, Obama would eventually put thousands of troops back into the country.)
Often, Obama’s presidency—which came with 257 seats in the House and (briefly) a 60-seat filibuster-proof Senate majority—frustrated many on the left. “The reformers in Congress were fighting a two-front war against Republicans and Wall Street, and against Obama administration policymakers,” former Rep. Brad Miller, a leading progressive on financial reform and consumer protections who left Congress in 2013, told Splinter. “Folks at Treasury under [Timothy] Geithner, folks at the National Economic Council—they really did not want more aggressive reform than what they got.”
But if Obama’s tenure marginalized progressive priorities, that is in part because of choices that the left made.
The CPC, on the other hand, eventually capitulated on its demand, and it’s easy to see why. The alternative was no reform—no Medicaid expansion, no ban on pre-existing conditions, and likely no shot at anything approaching universal healthcare for the rest of Obama’s presidency. As it was, the Affordable Care Act passed with the slimmest of House majorities, 219–212.
It was a decision rooted in the belief that something would be better than nothing. As has often been the case throughout history, those moving the bill through Congress calculated that the progressives would eventually come around, and that they were better off negotiating to their right. In the end, the Democratic rebellion against Obamacare came from the right of the caucus; most of the Democrats who voted against the bill were Blue Dogs, including two of the coalition’s three co-chairs at the time.
Voting to pass Obamacare, as deeply flawed a bill as it was, is a defensible decision. But it was still an unmistakable signal about CPC members’ willingness, when it came down to it, to be dutiful foot soldiers for the party—and the problem with that is that sometimes, you have to be willing to defy your generals to make transformative change.
The healthcare debate of 2009–2010 still stings for many progressives, and to this day remains an animating influence on the American left. In an interview with Splinter, Justice Democrats Communications Director Waleed Shahid described his organization’s role as building a “mission-driven caucus that, if a Democrat is elected president, will hold that Democrat’s feet to the fire on these issues.”
The Democratic Party of 2019, of course, is not the Democratic Party of 2009. As FiveThirtyEight pointed out in November, there were about 1.5 CPC members in the House during the Democrats’ last majority for every one Blue Dog; this time, there’s closer to a four to one advantage.
“It did some good work. It was certainly not as cohesive as some of the other caucuses,” Miller recalled of the CPC while he was in office. “[The Blue Dogs] really identified themselves as members of that caucus, and a great deal of their time they spent on caucus activities, and that was an important part of how the House was organized….the progressives were a whole lot less cohesive.”
Still, it was clear that the real seismic changes within the party were coming from the party’s left: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley defeated senior incumbent Democrats in primaries, while other left-wing freshmen such as Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Deb Haaland won competitive primaries in deep-blue districts.
(Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Pressley declined to be interviewed for this story, while the offices of Tlaib and Haaland didn’t respond to multiple requests for an interview. While reporting this piece, Splinter requested interviews with over 50 current members of the CPC, including co-chairs Jayapal and Pocan; only five agreed to an interview with us.)
Even before the general election, questions about how progressives would wield power began popping up. In an interview with Daniel Denvir of The Dig podcast shortly after her primary upset, Ocasio-Cortez raised the idea of forming a smaller, more ideologically rigid “sub-caucus of the progressive caucus” that could wield power in a way similar to what the House Freedom Caucus did during the GOP’s years of power. Most notably, the Freedom Caucus helped force the resignation of John Boehneras Speaker in 2015. “If you can even carve out a caucus of 10, 30 people, it does not take a lot, if you operate as a bloc vote, to really make strong demands on things,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Instead of gaining steam, however, the idea for a smaller subset of the CPC appears to have gone cold. Even Khanna, one of the most liberal members of the caucus on issues like war and the safety net, is resistant to the idea of a sub-caucus. “My fundamental critique of the Freedom Caucus is dogmatism, that they have such a certainty in their viewpoint,” he said. “I don’t have that certainty in my own viewpoint. No individual or caucus has a monopoly on the truth…I would reject any caucus that was ideologically rigid with no openness to exchange.
“That said, I think the progressive caucus will be very effective in getting results on our key priorities,” Khanna added. The House Democrats’ thin majority of fewer than 20 seats also helps, as the CPC would theoretically be able to leverage its power effectively on the most important issues of the day even if just half of the caucus supports or opposes something.
Another reason that sub-caucus idea never gained steam is that the CPC itself could be adopting a similar approach very soon. In February, the Washington Post reported that Jayapal and Pocan were “putting the finishing touches” on a plan to require that members support a “certain number of liberal policy prescriptions in order to join the CPC,” and that the CPC had created a task force to come up with a “voting bloc proposal” mandating that all members stick together on certain votes.
Jayapal told the Post that this wasn’t a “purity test,” but rather an attempt to set out “some guidelines about what we stand for.” While details of the proposal have yet to be released, Jayapal told the Post that would “probably” mandate that all members ”support three out of four liberal policy prescriptions or legislation in 12 to 14 categories.”
This is encouraging news for anyone who wishes the CPC would be somewhat more ideologically coherent. But any demands for more legislative unity could cause trouble with some of the caucus’ members—especially those who are also members of other, more conservative blocs in the House.
Rep. Adam Smith is a perfect embodiment of the ideological variance in the CPC.
Smith was elected to the House in 1996 at the age of 31. He quickly rose through the ranks of the New Democratic Coalition, serving as a co-chair for the group in the mid-2000s. He credited his initial political leaning to having “a lot more confidence that I knew the right answers to everything then.”
“My general take, having grown up where I grew up, is that we had been insufficiently responsive to concerns about people who had liberal politics,” Smith told Splinter. “I grew up in a union family and grew up a working class kid, but I believe in national security and I’m not anti-business, and the New Dems seemed to be the group of people that fit those ideas.” Smith was one of the more moderate members in Congress, and enthusiastically supported the Iraq War.
But around 2001 or 2002, according to Smith, he began to undergo what he calls a “big transition.” Eventually, Smith joined the CPC while maintaining his membership in the NDC. (Smith said he joined within the “last four or five years”; he began appearing on the CPC’s public rostersometime between September and November 2017, according to the Wayback Machine.)
In addition, Smith is co-sponsoring the Green New Deal resolution in the House—“while recognizing we have a lot more work to do,” he added—as well as Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill, while noting he’d also support “incremental” improvements to the ACA until Medicare for All has the votes.
Smith isn’t alone in holding membership in both caucuses. Several of those holding dual membership in the NDC and CPC are freshmen members. (According to the NDC’s roster, the group now has a total of 101 members. The Blue Dogs, which had been decimated since 2010, now have 27 members, including 10 freshmen who also joined the NDC.)
“Being part of both the New Dem Coalition and the Congressional Progressive Caucus allows me to put constituents over labels and advocate for all of the issues that affect them,” first-year Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a self-described “progressive pragmatist” who joined both caucuses, told Splinter in a statement. “Being a member of both caucuses will help ensure my constituents are represented in as many decision-making tables as possible.”
Even the more staunchly progressive members of the CPC said they had no issue with members joining both caucuses. “I think that we want to get as many people as involved with the caucus as we can as long as they really want to advance the progressive agenda,” Rep. Andy Levin, a freshman member from Michigan, told Splinter last week. “I don’t see it as a big problem.”
In an interview with Splinter, Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat who’s part of both the New Democrats and the CPC, pointed out that he was “unrestrained” in his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which put him at odds with most other members of the progressive caucus. But while more conservative than the average member on economics, Beyer said he was drawn to join the CPC as well because of its work on the environment and “lifting people out of poverty.” Until recently, he told Splinter last month, he never felt that there was tension between the moderates and the progressives.
“I felt it more the past couple of weeks than the first four years,” Beyer said.
Even before the new Congress was sworn in, the increasing ideological tensions within the CPC itself—let alone the larger Democratic caucus—were exposed.
Jeffries narrowly defeated Lee; the Intercept reported that he did so with help from former Crowley. “I don’t want to re-litigate that election, but if you read the Intercept, the news articles, you’ll see exactly what happened,” Lee told Splinter with a laugh. (Crowley’s office disputed the Intercept’s account at the time, telling Splinter in November that he “played no role in the race for caucus chair” and that allegations he whipped votes for Jeffries were “false and inaccurate.”)
But, Lee added, there are progressives in the leadership—including herself, as she was appointed a co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which makes committee assignments. Although the top four members of the leadership aren’t members of any caucus, nine of the 14 elected members of the leadership are CPC members.
“The progressive caucus is a major influencer in every policy decision,” Lee said. “When you look at committee chairs, you’ll find many progressive caucus members.”
But with those exceptions, what Democratic infighting has taken place has mostly been between the broad left of the caucus, its center, and especially its right, a natural reflection of the tensions within a two-party system.
Twenty-eight House Democrats also voted for a GOP amendment to alert ICE when an undocumented immigrant attempts to buy a gun, which reportedly caused a spat where both left-wing members and the leadership slammed the caucus’s right for being willing to hand both the GOP a win and ICE another surveillance tool against undocumented people.
For the most part, though, the Democratic caucus has remained united behind the big-ticket items on its agenda so far, easily passing bills on voting rights and gun control.
And despite grumblings from the caucus’s right wing, the Democrats didn’t blink during the month-plus long government shutdown. “More conservative and middle of the road Democrats were expressing a lot more anxiety,” Levin told Splinter. “There was some compromise, but we did pretty well.”
But the leadership’s big-ticket items are there for a reason: they’re the things Democrats coalesce around with little controversy. The Democratic left’s big asks do not enjoy such immediate support. When it comes to the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, there’s still a lot of resistance within the caucus, even as both gain public popularity. “I’ve got colleagues saying, ‘Don’t make me take a vote on Medicare for All,’” Levin said. “And I’m saying, ‘Dude, I ran on Medicare for All. I have to push for a vote.’”
In the House, Jayapal introduced this year what’s assuredly the most comprehensive Medicare for All bill thus far. And it came with firepower—106 co-sponsors right off the bat. All were Democrats, but not all of them were CPC members; Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a moderate Democrat who recently began her third stint in the House in the past 10 years, told the Hill last month that she decided to back Jayapal’s bill after a conversation with her physician daughter.
Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey introduced (non-binding) resolutions in Congress this year affirming the body’s support for a Green New Deal—which, aside from launching a nationwide mobilization to neutralize the country’s carbon footprint by 2030, aims to greatly expand the safety net with guaranteed healthcare, housing, and union jobs. Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution currently has 90 co-sponsors, while Markey’s has 11, including all six Senate Democrats who’ve announced that they’re running for president. Additionally, earlypolling for the Green New Deal has proved promising.
But in order to enact progressives’ biggest priorities, the CPC and its allies have gigantic political and institutional obstacles to overcome. Apart from the most obvious one—a GOP-led Senate and White House until 2021 at the earliest—there’s the 60-vote Senate filibuster, which 2020 candidates (including Sanders) have expressed a reluctance to get rid of. And don’t forget about all of your favorite vanguards of American capitalism: Wall Street, the oil and gas industry, the Chamber of Commerce, and so on and so forth.
On top of that, Pelosi has been less than enthusiastic about both. On the day the Green New Deal resolution was introduced in February, Pelosi referred to it as the “green dream” and said that “nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” She also said that any action on the climate will have to be “Congresswide”—a futile effort with such a far-right Republican caucus.
And later that month in an interview with Rolling Stone, Pelosi gave a description of Medicare for All that bore very little resemblance to what Jayapal’s plan aims to do, and said it was “not as good a benefit as the Affordable Care Act.” The Intercept also reported in February that a top Pelosi aide had reassured Blue Cross Blue Shield executives, in a closed-door meeting in December, that the leadership was firmly against single-payer.
Pelosi, as part of a deal cut with rebels on the right of the caucus last year, has agreed to step down as Democratic leader by 2022 at the latest. But her reluctance to support any of these items raises an even larger question for congressional progressives and their ideas: Is the Democratic Party ever going to be ready?
For progressives on both the inside and outside of Congress, this is where “people power,” which Lee referred to as the CPC’s “operating principle,” comes in.
“The public is demanding that we come up with policies that are progressive and not tinker around the edges with incremental changes,” Lee told Splinter. “That’s what the progressive caucus has always stood for.”
Advocacy groups in support of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, such as the labor union National Nurses United and the climate action group Sunrise Movement, have been as successful as any member at helping to keep these priorities in the spotlight and encouraging reluctant members to sign on. Beyer, for example, credits his decision to sign onto last year’s iteration of the Medicare for All bill to his constituents. “The original sign-on came after a town hall meeting that I had where 18 of the first 20 speakers were about Medicare for All,” Beyer said, although he admits that he’s “not sure the Bernie Sanders approach is the best way to do it.”
“The CPC recognizes that they have a vital role to play on the inside of Congress, and that the mass movement at the grassroots has a vital role to play,” Ken Zinn, NNU’s political director, told Splinter. “It can’t simply be all on the Hill. There’s got to be a growing movement putting pressure on these elected leaders to push for the change. That’s how all progressive change in this country has ever come about.”
Whether it’s persuasion by CPC members and leaders or simply the winds of public opinion blowing to the left, it’s clear that something is changing in the Democratic Party when the expansion of government has become a litmus test for presidential candidates.
Given the failures of 2009 and 2010, however, there remains the issue of moderate Democrats who’ve stood against the party’s leftward shift. That’s the basic premise behind Justice Democrats, which played a crucial role in Ocasio-Cortez’s victory; already, the group has announced a primary fund for a challenge to Cuellar, a Blue Dog from a safe Democratic seat in Texas which Clinton won by 20 points in 2016. More names are almost certainly to come.
“If a President Warren or Harris or Sanders or whoever feels like they have to negotiate with Henry Cuellar and Joe Manchin before they have to negotiate with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Pramila Jayapal,” Shahid said, “That’s bad for the progressive movement.”
The CPC’s ultimate strategy for getting what it wants is rather simple: 218 votes in the House and 60 (or 51) in the Senate. Given polarization and gerrymandering, it’s hard to envision (without another seismic political event on the level of the Civil War or the Great Depression) one party in Congress having the sorts of majorities that Democrats enjoyed during the New Deal era. And so the numbers game is stacked heavily against the CPC, especially when the Democrats’ conventional wisdom for winning the swing seats necessary for a majority—one which isn’t likely to change with Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Medicare for All skeptic from Illinois, at the DCCC helm—has been to back moderates and conservative candidates.
As difficult as that may seem, the effects of Democrats engaging the right and taking the left for granted are well-documented in the record; 10 years later, we’re still arguing about the public option, although things have shifted enough that it’s now the de facto option for Democrats who can’t stomach the two-year transition to Medicare for All that Jayapal’s bill calls for. And more often than not, these attempts to appease moderate Democrats and even Republicans during the only two periods of unified Democratic government in the CPC’s existence came with very few votes to show for it.
If you view American politics through this lens, negotiating to the center and the right has only served to water down progressive policy rather than strengthen it, and replacing more conservative members of the Democratic caucus with allies—or members who can be whipped into voting for the agenda via direct action and primary threats—is the only way to avoid those mistakes of the past.
Although Jayapal and Pocan both ultimately declined to be interviewed for this story, they offered a comment when asked how they plan to enact some of their biggest priorities, given the current obstacles they face.
“We are in a progressive moment. Families across the nation–in rural, urban and suburban areas—want to see bold ideas to fix our rigged economy and restore power to the people,” Jayapal and Pocan said in the statement. “The Democratic majority today is far for more progressive than the majority in 2006. Put simply, we have a mandate from the American people for our bold, forward-looking agenda.
“Passing Democratic priorities—on lowering prescription drugs costs, ensuring college affordability, raising wages, and more—will require the buy-in of the Progressive Caucus,” the pair added. “We are ready to use our ideas and numbers to deliver the bold change that the American people voted for.”
Despite the challenges they face, it’s clear that progressivism, or at least the core ideals of American progressives, are gaining steam in the U.S. What’s more unclear is what, exactly, it will take to overcome the wall of opposition that’s sure to face them.
Miller, the North Carolina congressman, who witnessed so many of those progressive hopes go down the drain the last time the Democrats had a unified government and an ambitious plan to take on a multitude of problems either created or exacerbated by a Republican president, has a simple piece of advice for this generation of progressives looking to enact sweeping social and economic change in America: “Try to make sure people who say they’re for you really are.”