The Curse Of Intersectionality
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal has been pretty widely mocked as an example of pie-in-the-sky progressivist policy thinking. Leaving aside the wildly unworkable stuff relating directly to energy and the environment, notice small print stuff, like the item on page 5 of the GND FAQ calling for ending and repairing “historic oppression of frontline and vulnerable communities.” Got that? If you don’t want to be forced to rent a room to transgendered tenants, then you must want the planet to burn.
Robby Soave of Reason points out that the Green New Deal requires subsidizing lazy bums. Look at the last line of this section of the GND FAQ:
Why would the left include a provision about subsidizing the lifestyle of lazy people in its climate change manifesto? Because that’s what intersectionality requires.
As I explain my forthcoming book, PANIC ATTACK: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order it here), intersectionality is a philosophical framework that has come to completely dominate progressive activist thinking in the 30 years since the sociologist Kimberle Crenshaw first coined it. An intersectional progressive recognizes that racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and transphobia, and age-ism, and classism, and so on, are separate-but-related phenomena. To ignore just one of these sources of oppression is to fail intersectionality; the seriously social-justice minded must treat all of these issues as equally important and confront them en masse.
Intersectionality — that’s exactly it. Liberal Jonathan Chait criticizes the plan as wildly unrealistic, and points out that even as an expression of blue-sky liberalism, it leaves out some basic things that are necessary to meaningfully reducing carbon emissions: building more nuclear power plants, increasing population density, cap-and-trade policies. Chait:
How to explain this curious lack of ambition? Simple: All these things divide progressive activists. Some of the most committed environmentalists got involved in the movement in the 1970s, before climate change was a major issue but when the left identified nuclear power with the Cold War and Three Mile Island. This mind-set shaped the thinking of enough environmentalists that their allies in the movement feel compelled to respect them despite overwhelming evidence that nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gasses, needs to fill some of the void left by phasing out fossil fuels. Likewise, many leftists regard relaxed restrictions on development and carbon caps, as unacceptably market-based. So those policies are out.
The operating principle behind the Green New Deal is a no-enemies-to-the-left spirit of fostering unity among every faction of the progressive movement. Thus, at the same time, the plan avoids taking stances that are absolutely vital to reduce carbon emissions, it embraces policies that have nothing to do with climate change whatsoever.
Sean McElwee, a socialist organizer with a penchant for colorfully threatening to destroy his enemies, designed the Green New Deal as a framework to encompass every maximal demand of the left. “The Green New Deal is what it means to be progressive. Clean air, clean water, decarbonizing, green jobs, a just transition, and environmental justice are what it means to a progressive,” he tells Vox. “By definition that means politicians who don’t support those goals aren’t progressive. We need to hold that line. Get on the GND train or choo-choo, motherf**ker, we’re going to go right past you.”
On page two of the GND FAQ, they talk about eliminating “farting cows”(a environmental methane source) and airplanes as the longterm goal. I’m not making this up. No planes, no cows.
Some of you readers say I’m a crackpot for conflating the Social Justice Warrior cultural agenda with economic socialism. The Green New Deal proposal demonstrates why in practical political terms, you cannot separate them. The doctrine of intersectionality will not let them.
Our future is:
Powered by our belief in one another.
And we’re just getting started.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 5, 2018
I agree that we need more pro-environment government laws and policies. I agree that the government needs to do something about strengthening the social safety net, income inequality, and strengthening the stability of the working class. I am somewhat to the left of the GOP on these issues. But if you think the Democratic Party as it exists today, post-Hillary and post-Obama, is going to let its standard-bearer vacillate the least bit from every maximal demand of the Left, you’re dreaming. It’s not right-wingers like me who are trying to smear socialism by attaching every crackpot thing the cultural left embraces to an economic program; it’s left-wing activists. One Millennial reader of this blog who works in DC Democratic circles told me last year that the militant activists really are driving this bus.
One caveat: I would have said the same thing about the GOP prior to Trump. The party’s factions litmus-tested everybody to death. Along came Trump and blew that system sky-high. Trump was a black swan, though. I suppose a black swan could fly into the Democratic picture too — after Trump, to be realistic is to allow for the impossible — but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Assuming that a GND endorser gets the Democratic nomination, it’s going to be awesome to see Trump lay into him or her for opposing farting cows, airplanes, and “oppression,” and backing subsidies for layabouts for the sake of saving the planet.
Some of y’all hate my talking about the political meaning of the Fog City Pack, freaky San Francisco gay dudes who pretend like they’re dogs , but I’m telling you, intersectionality means that weirdos like that will be humping the party’s leg insatiably and unshakably. #FogCityDemocrats.
The first major policy intervention from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the noted social-media personality and future dictator-for-life of the Americas (I believe she’s also a congresswoman of some sort), is a quite-extraordinary document: a blueprint for fighting climate change that manages to confirm every conservative critique of liberal environmental activism, every Republican suspicion of what global-warming alarm is really all about.
The core conservative suspicion is that when liberals talk about the dire threat of global warming, they’re actually seizing opportunistically on the issue to justify, well, #fullsocialism — the seizure of the economy’s commanding heights in order to implement the most left-wing possible agenda.
A conventional liberal, up until now, would dismiss that belief as simply paranoid, the product of Fox News feedback loops and the science-denying fever swamps. But the Green New Deal that Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey are sponsoring — and that four leading Democratic contenders for the presidency have already endorsed — responds by saying: Yes, that’s absolutely correct.
The Douthat column reminded me of something I should have brought up earlier. Do y’all know why the Yellow Vests protests started in France? They were a spontaneous movement by non-urban French people who hated the proposed gasoline tax that the Macron government wanted to impose as part of its green agenda. The people quite rightly understood that this tax would fall heaviest on rural and suburban people — not the urban centers, where wealth and power are concentrated. The politics of fighting global warming are very, very difficult. The fact that they’re difficult do not make the scientific facts about planetary temperatures and rising oceans go away. But nobody has figured out how, in a democracy, to compel masses of people to accept a costlier life and a lower standard of living for the sake of something that they experience as an abstraction. I feel that whenever I talk to a progressive about this stuff, they believe that if we can just vote the Republicans out of office, the political problems of fighting global warming will be easy to solve.