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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Gets It

Nothing short of an all-out political struggle will topple the centrist Democrats—or perhaps convince them to start taking these problems seriously

Incidentally, that is a good insight into how moderate Democrats actually feel about AOC and the rest of the left, when they aren't desperately trying to appropriate some of her celebrity. (Photo: Illustrated | REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Incidentally, that is a good insight into how moderate Democrats actually feel about AOC and the rest of the left, when they aren't desperately trying to appropriate some of her celebrity. (Photo: Illustrated | REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Over the next decade at most, if the United States is going to do its part in the international effort to combat the existential risk posed by climate change, it must conduct an all-out crash decarbonization program.

The biggest obstacle to that objective is the Republican Party. But the second-biggest is the moderate faction of the Democratic Party, which may grudgingly acknowledge climate change — and many other problems only somewhat less important — but is too corrupt and mealy-mouthed to do anything remotely sufficient about it.

That's why it's so heartening to see leftist champion Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) considering backing a primary challenge to fellow New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D), who recently beat Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to become the Democratic caucus chair in the House of Representatives. Nothing short of an all-out political struggle will topple the centrist Democrats—or perhaps convince them to start taking these problems seriously.

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Let's recall some history. Back in 2009, the Democratic Party controlled the presidency, the House, and even had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for a few months. For awhile, parts of the party attempted to pass a pitifully weak cap-and-trade plan (like ObamaCare, it was designed to not infuriate too many interested parties) and did get something out of the House. But it died in the Senate on the opposition of moderate Democrats.

So climate policy moved to the executive branch, where nothing much happened for over five years in large part because Obama's neoliberal regulatory czar in his first term deliberately threw sand in the gears of the entire regulatory apparatus. Then we got the Clean Power Plan, which at bottom was … another inadequate cap-and-trade scheme. Probably better than nothing, but not good enough to actually head off the problem.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

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