The Democratic Party's Psychotic Break
Faced with the prospect of running against an unpopular Republican incumbent who loves offending people and getting himself in trouble, all the Democratic Party had to do to win elections again is to offer a sane, moderate, widely acceptable alternative.
They couldn't do it. Instead, they have allowed their unhinged reaction to Trump drive them beyond the edge of reason. While socialism leads to starvation and tyranny in Venezuela, as seen in daily headlines, socialism is actually gaining in popularity among mainstream Democrats. But the primary driver of the Democrats' insanity, the proof and product of their psychotic break, is the Green New Deal.
Like a schizophrenic allowing a random stray thought to hijack his mental processes, the Democratic Party has allowed a 29-year-old first-term congresswoman, who was elected by getting 15,000 votes in a low-turnout primary and then cruising through the general election in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, to set the agenda for the entire national party. The result is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's rollout of the Green New Deal with a bizarre, rambling manifesto posted on her website and sent by her staff to multiple media outlets.
Years ago, I described the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan as an unrealistic fantasy. "The basic scientific and engineering problem with building massive new solar plants and wind turbines is that the more of them you build, the less likely they are to produce more energy than you consume to build and maintain them." Building hundreds of thousands of wind turbines and solar panel installations, along with all the conventional fossil-fuel plants required to back them up and all the new infrastructure to support them, is such a massive, expensive, energy-intensive undertaking that it cancels out any alleged gains, even by the dubious assumptions of the global-warming alarmists.
It has been said that the neurotic builds castles in the air, but the psychotic lives in them. That's the difference between the Clean Power Plan and the Green New Deal. It takes the Obama administration's fantasy, builds it out into a whole alternative universe, and sets up its headquarters there.
While the Obama administration's plan was designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from large power plants by 32% in 15 years, the Green New Deal asserts that we will "move America to 100% clean and renewable energy" in 10 years. Along the way, we will "retrofit every building in America" and "upgrade or replace every building in [the] US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency"—note the repetition of "every," as if they have thought through the actual magnitude of this promise. And while we're doing all of that, we will "build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary"—great news for residents of Hawaii—and "create affordable public transit available to all, with [the] goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle." There's that "every" again. Oh, and we're going to criss-cross the country with a fine web of high-speed rail while ensuring that it's done with "union jobs that pay prevailing wages and hire local" and that "eminent domain is not abused." Because if we're already promising rainbows and unicorns, why stop?
The best part? This is a hugely ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that also sets out to "decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years." No, wait, that's not the best part. The best part is this: "We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren't sure that we'll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast." Yes, that's right. They also contemplate the Final Solution to the Bovine Question and are presumably intending to slaughter all of the nation's cows. If you don't think they mean this, you haven't been following the left's crusade against meat-eating, including Ocasio-Cortez's advice to schoolchildren that the big thing they can do to save the planet is to cut meat and dairy from their diet.
But the Green New Deal is not just about environmentalism. While we're constructing a fantasy world, why not throw in every item on the welfare-state wish list, too? So along with ensuring that everything is done by union labor, held to stricter "labor, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards"—which will help all this new infrastructure work get done quickly, right?—we are also going to guarantee everyone "a job with a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security," "high-quality health care," "safe, affordable, adequate housing," and "economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work."
Yes, you read that last bit right: economic security for people who are unwilling to work. So we're going to have a mass mobilization of effort on the scale of World War II—larger, in fact—but if you want to be a not-so-conscientious objector and sit home and watch TV, no problem, we'll still make sure you get paid.
You might be asking how we're going to pay for all of this—but you're probably not, because it's blindingly obvious that we can't. Yet this is the one topic where the document has a refreshingly honest answer for us. We're going to pay for the Green New Deal "the same way we paid for the New Deal, the 2008 bank bailout, and extended quantitative easing programs. The same way we paid for World War II and all our current wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit." In other words, we're going to print a whole lot of money and add some extra zeroes to all of our prices.
The depth of the delusion here is breathtaking. Elsewhere the document admits, "The level of investment required is massive. Even if every billionaire and company came together and were willing to pour all the resources at their disposal into this investment, the aggregate value of the investments they could make would not be sufficient." But if the combined wealth of the entire private economy is insufficient, where else do they imagine wealth is going to come from? They must believe that, by printing money, the government can literally summon new capital into existence.
Yet amidst all of this thumping self-confidence, they concede that their vision is only speculative. The Green New Deal cannot be done by private companies, they say, because "private companies are wary of making massive investments in unproven research and technologies; the government, however, has the time horizon to be able to patiently make investments in new tech and R&D, without necessarily having a commercial outcome or application in mind at the time the investment is made." This is their description of how we are going to overhaul the entire energy, housing, and transportation sectors of the economy in ten years: by throwing money at unproven technology with no deadlines and no specific practical application.
But have no fear, this will all work out fantastically: "the question isn't how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity."
It is clear that this entire document was written by people—the file was created by Saikat Chakrabarti, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff—who do not have the first beginnings of knowledge about construction, engineering, permitting, federal contracts, taxes, banking, economics, or physics. Yet to make that observation seems both mundane and inadequate. This proposal is not a mere product of ignorance or inexperience or overzealous idealism. This is such a pure, extravagant delusion that we have to genuinely wonder about the sanity of the people who produced it. The idea of a "psychotic break" is not a mere metaphor. This document demonstrates the processes of a mind that has become unmoored from reality.
The only thing as insane as Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal document is the way it was rolled out. It was not only uploaded to her website but also sent out by her office to reporters—but after it was widely mocked on social media, it was hastily taken down, and Ocasio-Cortez tried to convince us it never really existed. She and her aides dismissed it as "an early draft of a FAQ that was clearly unfinished and that doesn't represent the GND resolution" which "got published to the website by mistake." Did they also send it to reporters by mistake?
A lot of people in the political media have been throwing around the term "gaslighting," a reference to a classic film in which Charles Boyer tries to convince Ingrid Bergman she is going insane by repeatedly insisting that things she sees and hears aren't really happening. The term is often applied in questionable ways, but if this isn't gaslighting, I don't know what is.
Yet this is not just Ocasio-Cortez's delusion. Having bungled the launch of her own document, she points us instead to the text of the official resolution she has proposed in Congress, which has already gained dozens of Democratic co-sponsors and the support of most of the major Democratic presidential candidates. This resolution is substantially the same, including such promises as "upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency" and "working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector," which is where the flatulent cows come in. The only difference is that in the official text these goals are described in vague generalities and qualified by frequent reliance on the phrase "as much as technologically feasible," which is a little bit like me saying that I'm going to buy as many Maseratis as I can afford.
This difference is the key to the madness. The appearing-and-disappearing document initially released by Ocasio-Cortez is what the vague congressional resolution looks like when you try to boil it down to anything approaching specific details. It is what happens when you try to pretend a crazy idea is sensible and then let it propagate through your brain. The Democratic Party long ago committed itself to global warming as a central cause that defines its agenda, but they did so without thinking through the full consequences. Now young fanatics like Ocasio-Cortez are requiring them to take this commitment seriously and follow its pretzel logic straight over a cliff.
This is really what the Ocasio-Cortez phenomenon is about. A lot of people, myself included, have been toying with the idea of describing her as the left's Donald Trump, with the same reliance on exaggerated promises and bluster. There's something to that, but I think I've found a better analogy. She's the Democratic Party's Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is the vibrant, attractive young woman who, by the sheer force of her spunk and childlike enthusiasm, seems to rescue them from the funk of defeat and the grey hopeless compromises of Clintonism. But the emphasis is on "manic." Like a bipolar obsessive in the manic phase, she projects a nervous energy fired by a delusional conviction that we can do everything and have everything immediately, right now, at no cost. Read some of these lines again—"the question isn't how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity"—and it jumps out at you.
I recently warned the left-leaning media that if they don't hold Ocasio-Cortez to account now, they can look forward to the self-abasement of being expected to invent embarrassing rationalizations for everything she does or says. I now think the danger is more severe: they need to start holding her to account in order to preserve their own sanity.
A few years back, I read the account of a young American soldier who foolishly defected to North Korea during the Vietnam War. When he finally returned to the US decades later, a military court let him off easy because they figured he had already served his prison time in the Hermit Kingdom. He recounted a time when the regime assigned him to a house with other Western defectors who were being punished for various imagined infractions by being forced to spend twelve hours a day studying the works of Kim Il-Sung, which they summarized to themselves as "the class struggle viewed from the perspective of a crazy person."
That's a reminder that this is not the first time mainstream, ordinary people have signed on to an ideal that sounded hopeful and idealistic, only to find that it leads them to insanity.
The problem isn't that none of the Green New Deal's goals can be achieved. The problem is that only half of these goals can be achieved. We can't build high-speed rail everywhere, but we can abolish air travel. We can't power the whole economy on "renewable energy," but we can shut down existing power plants. We can't give everyone a "family-sustaining wage," but we can definitely kill cows and tell our kids there's no more milk to drink. We can't provide economic security for people who don't want to work, but we can flood the country with billion-dollar bank notes. It is very hard to create, but very easy to destroy.
Those are the consequences of a break from reality. The Democrats are staring into that abyss, and everyone needs to pull back before we're all living in a waking nightmare.