Something weird is happening in American politics: People are excited about climate policy again.
Since November, progressives have rallied around a Green New Deal, a package of policies aiming to slash carbon emissions while renewing the U.S. manufacturing sector. Though its finer details remain hazy, think tanks have begun to explore how it might work, and Democrats with White House ambitions have rushed to endorse it.
At least a decade has passed since climate change commanded so much political attention in the party. “If your 2020 platform doesn’t include a Green New Deal, are you really running for president?” teased Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a few weeks ago.
Yet for every imaginative proposal or boisterous protest, there is an unavoidable truth: Passing a Green New Deal is going to be really, really, really hard.
The reason for this difficulty is so simple and straightforward, it feels almost silly to mention. Success will require Democrats to control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate—and then find a policy that will pass all three.
That is, of course, how you pass a law. But Democrats could very well find legislating a Green New Deal to be more arduous than achieving other progressive goals, such as Medicare for all or a wealth tax on super-millionaires. Not once, during the modern era of climate politics, has a major emissions-cutting bill made it through this gauntlet. And a Green New Deal has an urgency distinct from other party aspirations: The sooner it’s in place, the more time it will have for the marathon work of attacking emissions.