Bill Bennett: Republicans, we can't afford to discount the far left's ideas – No matter how wrong they are

The Green New Deal is certainly worthy of its color if nothing else. It would cost an unfathomable amount of green to fund this amorphous, flashy proposal. It’s also a showcase for a young, wildly idealistic, and increasingly influential congresswoman.

Some rational opponents of the Deal have rightly and thoughtfully begun to pick apart these and additional proposals on health care, taxes, and other matters, pointing to practical unworkability and huge cost. But some conservatives have been dismissive, waiving them off as an anchor around liberal necks and a blessing to conservatives and President Trump.

But such a view and attitude misses the larger point -- it is not the factual reliability of these “socialist ideas” that matters as much as their political appeal.

BILL BENNETT: DEMOCRATS HAVE MADE A SHARP LEFT TURN – HERE'S WHAT'S BEHIND IT

First, let’s look at a couple of facts.

The since-stricken FAQ page for the Green New Deal promised to provide “economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work” and it guaranteed health care for all. The core of the plan aims to make America run on entirely clean energy sources within the next ten years and sustain the whole population with a “green economy.”

The estimated cost of Medicare for All and universal basic income are $3.2 trillion and $3.8 trillion annually, respectively. Simply put, we cannot afford this.

Yet millennials support the Green New Deal by 24 percentage points. This same poll found that 81 percent of people polled support the broad outline of the proposal. This summer, a Reuters Ipsos poll showed that 70 percent of Americans support a single-payer health system. Furthermore, a January Harris Hill poll showed that 59 percent of people support raising the top tax rate to 70 percent.

It’s clear these proposals are not remotely plausible, yet they are getting considerable support from leading rank and file Democrats, the media and large swaths of the public. Why?

It has to do with the power of an idea. Victor Hugo wrote, “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” To update Hugo, it’s true even if it’s a bad idea.

It would be easy to dismiss the plans and their supporters, given that they’re unworkable, but that would not be wise. While these ideas may not be practical in the real world, as political ideas they’re extremely viable. Even if all the proposals die on the table, winning public opinion would provide return on investment.

Again, smart conservatives have focused on debunking the feasibility of these proposals, but the greater alarm bell here isn’t how crazy they are, but rather that they have wide-ranging support despite their obvious fatal flaws.

Consider what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, echoing her comments about ObamaCare in terms of embracing it without understanding it: “The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they're for it, right?" Just as the public, with Pelosi, supported ObamaCare before knowing what was in it and passed it, the same thing could happen here.

We’ve seen Democratic presidential hopefuls Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris get behind the plan. This isn’t a fringe movement.

This isn’t an effective game plan from a policy perspective because it lacks tactical direction, but it can be powerful as a strategic political idea.

Rep. Ocasio Cortez understands this power and has established herself as a true symbol of liberal millennial ideology.

This generation has been groomed in academia’s leftist echo chamber and is now coming to age with a weak grasp on reality. It has been indoctrinated to revile the energy industry, corporate America, and our economic system as mechanisms of oppression. These lessons are now coming home to roost.

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There is a narrative being propagated by the liberal media that the right is “obsessed” with Rep. Ocasio Cortez. That’s not accurate or fair. Republicans are tracking her rising star because she has a prominent, albeit severely misguided, voice. They would be fools not to examine her and her allies’ agenda.

The Democrats made a grave mistake in disregarding the populist momentum President Trump generated during his election campaign. The Republicans should not return the favor and discount The New Extreme Left’s ideas, no matter how wrong they are.

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