The New Deal is Always Greener on the Democratic Side…
The State of Politics (Disclaimer).
If you trust my nonpartisan intent and approach, then you can skip this section. This section is supposed to show where I am coming from with the arguments in this article. I didn’t think it was just enough to declare that I am stating the facts and/or being objective, I want to demonstrate this by laying-out the context behind everything I’m arguing. I think it can seem like I’m being partisan against the political right, but I genuinely believe that there is something to talk about here, independent of mine or anyone else’s political bias or interest. I approach political analyses from a nonpartisan perspective, in that I show no bias towards any political party. Just to be clear, also, the “political right” refers to Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians.
It is simply a matter of fact that the partisan politics has become a negative and pernicious phenomenon. Of course, this happens on the political left, too, from Sen. And Presidential Candidate Corey Booker calling Republicans who supported then-Supreme Court Justice Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, “complicit in the evil”, to Rep. Rashida Talib shouting “We’re gonna impeach the m***f***r!” upon her swearing-in to the House of Representatives, to Sen. and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders promoting Democratic Socialism (more on this later); the list can go on, but the point is clear that the shameful and contentious political climate is coming from both sides. With this being said, however, I think that there is something different and worse happening on the political right and particularly with the Republican Party.
The rhetoric has gotten extreme, dramatic, and divisive in the last decade. The Republican Party in 2008 was markedly different than the one we see today. Since the surge of the TEA Party in the 2010 Congressional elections, the Republican Party has planted their anchor farther down on the right of the political spectrum, towards a social and/or fiscal conservative electorate. After those elections, the TEA Party changed Congress, political discourse in America, and the Republican Party. It created the groundwork for the conspiracy that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, (which was pushed by now-President Donald Trump in 2012), the establishment of the House Freedom Caucus, which impedes the passage of laws that Republicans, themselves, promoted, this never-ending and objectiveless crusade against the Affordable Care Act, etc. I believe this is inarguable, valid, and indeed, nonpartisan.
The Real Green New Deal
By now I’m sure most people are aware that there is this thing called “The Green New Deal” and that it proposes that we do some things to mitigate the catastrophes of climate change. Unfortunately, however, because of today’s toxic partisanship, exaggeration by a divisive media landscape, and general misunderstandings about legislative procedures, many people “know” things about the ambitious document that are, in fact, wrong. Most of the rhetoric about “The Green New Deal” (heretofore, “the GND”), particularly what is coming from the political right, is misleading and misrepresentative. Pundits and public figures dramatically mischaracterize what the GND actually is and what it states. There are three major mischaracterizations that have somehow been asserted as if they are real and true, but are actually wrong: 1) that the GND is a proposed law and would having force over society, 2) it recommends the elimination of livestock cows and airplanes, and 3) it represents a dramatic shift towards “Socialism”. A great explanation of these first two points can be found in this Roll Call video..
The first point – that the GND not actually being a proposed law – is fundamental because it changes what it implies and how one should think about it. The GND is really a Congressional Resolution, which is essentially a declaration made by the House and/or Senate (the technical term is that it’s a Simple Resolution). It has no binding power and its passage is symbolic and political in nature, which means it isn’t a law. More often than not, however, it gets characterized as a law or bill, as if it actually does something; but it isn’t a law and it does nothing tangible. So, for example, when people say the GND ‘would’ do something, take those claims with a grain of salt because it doesn’t do anything except symbolize Congressional agreement on a subject and a commitment to do something. This technicality, although minor-seeming, is incredibly important to keep in mind because it implies different things about what would happen if it were passed. The passage of the GND doesn’t change create any new law or action by government, it simply represents a symbol of support by Congress. It’s especially shameful to see national pundits and journalists mischaracterize the GND like this, because they know the difference between bills and resolutions, at least they should. More information about the types of actions that Congress can take can be for here for the House and here for the Senate.
Secondly, this constant claim that the GND is proposing the complete elimination livestock cows and airplanes. I have read the full text of the both the House and Senate Green New Deal Resolutions and there is no suggestion or language about any of this. Apparently, this misconception originated from a FAQ document about the GND, which states how the drafters aren’t sure they can “fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes” within 10 years. The FAQ was taken down the next day it was put up because of the controversy it spurred, but sadly, that clause about cows and animals became the pervading point to focus on. This is totally ridiculous. The magnitude of this issue really should’ve ended after the FAQs were taken down. It was a mistake and sure that doesn’t reflect well or look good or whatever, but it certainly isn’t indicative of what is written into the resolution. In fact, here are both the House and Senate Resolutions; we can all read exactly what’s written into them and realize that any suggestions of completely eliminating ‘cow farts and airplanes’ is a noncept. Anyone who is being serious about judging something like this would focus primarily on the real, full text of the act. It is deceitful for people to imply that the resolution would do something that it literally doesn’t state.
Lastly and most frustratingly, there has been also been dramatic referred to as a step towards Socialism. (It’s hard to make it through this part of the analysis without becoming angry and putting in my own bias) This is a line that is abused by Republicans. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) is socialistic, redistribution policies are socialistic, progressive taxes like marginal income tax and estate tax are socialistic, and now the GND has been added to the list. This is also incredibly ridiculous.
Maybe this is a stretch, but I believe that Socialism, the kind of Marxist-Socialism that is implied when it’s invoked by the political right, is literally impossible in the United States. There are some inherent and permanent characteristics about our system of government that preclude the type of highly centralized, government-administered system that’s associated with Marxist-Socialism, which I will now just call Socialism again. First, our system of national governance, called federalism, is actually very decentralized, in that a lot of decision-making and administrating is done by individual states throughout the country and not by the central, federal government. Despite what many people think, the actual administration of government is a complicated mix of federal, state, and local jurisdictions and roles altogether, but there is a strong lean towards state and local administration. The second set of characteristics about our system is that our government doesn’t actually do that much carrying-out its own policies, especially in the domain of social welfare. Instead, governments contract-out a lot of services to nongovernmental organizations. In other words, the government doesn’t feed the hungry and offer housing, per se, but rather funds nongovernmental organizations to provide these services for the public. In Socialist regimes, the government directly carries out these services as well as others. Socialism is structurally impossible. When pundits, writers, etc. assert that Socialism is encroaching in the United States, they are either being dramatic at best or deceitful at worst.
Part of this extreme thinking and rhetoric about Socialism is spurred by presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders’, and other representatives’ embrace of the term “Democratic Socialism”. It’s slightly unfortunate that they insist on this term as being a descriptor for them, in the same way it’s slightly unfortunate former President Barack Obama embraced “Obamacare” as descriptor for the Affordable Care Act. Their association with this label creates a political vulnerability that opponents would use to attack them. So, instead of seriously exploring what people mean when they define themselves as Democratic Socialists, opponents write them off as Marxist-Socialists and people believe those criticisms. Right, wrong, or whatever about the meaning and validity of the term Democratic Socialism, it creates more problems than benefits. The rest of where this extreme thinking and rhetoric is coming from is due to the toxic politics and polarization of today.
Piecing together the puzzle.
So, what does this have to do with veganism? There is a direct and an indirect connection between them. Directly, the GND calls for agricultural reforms, which should and likely would include animal agriculture. Indirectly, the GND broadly calls for the same kind of sustainable, environmentally conscious world that veganism does. There are also other indirect connections we can make in terms of how the discourse about the GND is unfolding, which is similar to the discourse about veganism.
I feel like the GND has become burdened by similar pitfalls to veganism. First and foremost, people tend to misunderstand both of these things from their very premises or foundations. For the GND, many people act like it is the only thing can be proposed and dealt with, when in it is partly supposed to be a political gesture that indicates a willingness to address climate change, like a starting point. If representatives disagree with the particular resolution but support the premise of doing something about climate change, they can offer their alternatives, like Rep. Matt Gaetz, R.-Fl., who last week announced his “Green Real Deal”. Even though it likely won’t gain traction, this is the kind of reaction the GND was supposed to inspire. The point about this is that people misunderstand the GND from its premise, it’s foundation, by thinking of it as ‘the proposal’ rather than a proposal that can be negotiated or countered with an alternative. In the same way, people misunderstand veganism at its premise by believing it’s some ascetic, cultish, and dogmatic choice that must either be 100% or nothing. In reality, veganism is a highly nuanced lifestyle choice and philosophy that is focused on minimizing and/or eliminating harm to animals and the planet. It’s hard to have a serious discussion about these things if people have such deep misconceptions about them.
The second pitfall that both the GND and veganism is that these concepts are wrapped-up in such a contentious, divided culture that it hinders the possibility of them gaining traction. Most people already have their opinions set about these things, even before really learn what they’re about. With regard to those who are against the GND, most of their unchanging views have to do with the three ways it’s mischaracterized and misrepresented that I mentioned earlier. Another reason that this happens is more speculative, but I think it is valid and you might agree; there’s this weird thing going on today in society where people are largely divided into their own ideological camps and think anyone who isn’t in that camp is wrong. It’s like everyone ‘knows’ they’re right and everyone who doesn’t agree is wrong and stupid (and apparently, Socialistic). Veganism and all other subjects are encumbered by this same problem of division and arrogance. This is a long-running complaint of mine, that no one knows how to break down their ideological barriers and try learning something new, especially something they disagree with. It’s frustrating, upsetting, negative, and a whole bunch of other bad words, but’s also true. This has to change. Climate change and veganism are two subjects that necessitate serious discussion and resolution, even if one walks away still disagreeing that these subjects are so dire and detrimental.
To synthesize these two pitfalls: People misunderstand the GND and veganism from their premises or foundations, and their beliefs are shrouded in contempt and distrust; so, from start to finish, we are just looking at and talking about these things all wrongly. There’s no clever or optimistic way to wrap this up, this just needs to stop. We need to be serious about problems of the world; arguably, we’re already too late to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change and animal agriculture, but the longer we do nothing, the worse an already bad situation gets.