By Dom Calicchio
Published June 02, 2019
California knows about fault lines. And political observers in the Golden State say the Democrats’ proposed Green New Deal may be a fault line that splits the party’s support – in California and elsewhere.
The environmental high-mindedness of the plan for combatting climate change – put forth by Democratic U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ed Markey of Massachusetts – appeals to the “elite” professionals the party has been courting for years.
But the potential disruption for the American labor, in which untold numbers of employees might have to transition from “old economy” jobs to “green economy” jobs, may be offputting for many blue-collar workers – potentially turning many of them away from Democratic candidates at the polls, some political observers say.
“Unlike the Mueller report --- and impeachment and indictment — people vote on whether or not they’re going to lose their job,” Jessica Levinson, a professor of politics and ethics at Loyola Law School, told Politico.
“Unlike the Mueller report --- and impeachment and indictment — people vote on whether or not they’re going to lose their job.”
In addition, Levinson said, many people who’ve spent years working in blue-collar union jobs “don’t necessarily want to be retrained” for so-called “green jobs.”
Signaling a potential blue-collar backlash, chants of “Garcetti’s gotta go” greeted Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in April when he launched his “Green New Deal LA” plan, Politico reported.
“[Garcetti's] got the big corporations with him, and he’s not thinking of the effects on the common people,’’ Paul Valdez, 58, a building trades worker from Thousand Oaks, told Politico. “If they start taking away our jobs, who’s going to pay our bills?”
“[Garcetti's] got the big corporations with him, and he’s not thinking of the effects on the common people.’’
Similarly, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – a Democrat who’s now running for president – was openly mocked in May when he launched his local version of the Green New Deal.
The mayor was forced to shout for much of his speech amid jeers from a crowd of about a dozen protesters inside the lobby of Trump Tower, which also had music blasting over the speakers. A number of protesters rode up and down the escalator behind de Blasio carrying cardboard signs with slogans like “Worst Mayor Ever,” “Failed Mayor,” and “Trump 2020.”
“They’re scared of the truth,” the mayor said. “Anyone that has a problem with saving the planet, I have a problem with them.”
“They’re scared of the truth. Anyone that has a problem with saving the planet, I have a problem with them.”
The Garcetti and de Blasio plans were part of an effort by Green New Deal backers to push the effort through left-leaning local and state governments rather than face the Republican-led U.S. Senate and the veto pen of President Trump.
In New Mexico, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed her state’s version of the plan, the Energy Transition Act, into law in March.
“This is a really big deal,” Grisham said in a statement at the time. “In every corner of this state, advocates, utilities, young adults, unions, elected officials and families came together to push for and, today, enact this transformational law. The Energy Transition Act fundamentally changes the dynamic in New Mexico. This legislation is a promise to future generations of New Mexicans, who will benefit from both a cleaner environment and a more robust energy economy with exciting career and job opportunities."
"The Energy Transition Act fundamentally changes the dynamic in New Mexico. This legislation is a promise to future generations of New Mexicans, who will benefit from both a cleaner environment and a more robust energy economy with exciting career and job opportunities."
But not all workers find a potential transition to be exciting.
On Saturday, dozens of members of California’s Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents more than 400,000 workers, planned a “Blue Collar Revolution” demonstration at the California Democratic Party Convention site in San Francisco.
Robbie Hunter, president of the labor group, told Politico what the Green New Deal represented to the group’s members.
“All it does is do what the Democratic Party seems to be very good at lately — which is export our jobs, while doing nothing for the end game, which is the environmental,’’ Hunter said.
Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, says Democrats should heed a lesson from West Virginia.
“West Virginia, until 2000, was considered solidly blue,” Pitney told Politico, until the George W. Bush campaign reminded the state’s coal miners of opponent Al Gore’s ties to the environmental movement, which the miners viewed as a threat to their jobs. The state’s voters ended up backing Bush, 52 percent to 46 percent.
“So yes,” Pitney told the magazine, “this is a real hazard for Democrats, something that somebody from a state with extractive industries may want to recognize.”