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Progressive Policy Is Popular-- So Why Can't Unified Democratic Government Pass Any Of It?



Spoiler alert: the congressional Democrats need new and improved-- more dynamic and less sclerotic-- leadership. Alexandra Hunt in a progressive Democrat running for a seat in Philly held by corporate Dem Dwight Evans. "Progressive policies are popular amongst the public," she told me this morning, "and it’s demonstrating that our leadership is outdated and not reflective of general opinion. As a population, we need to work together and take down a system that has gone without consideration of the people for far too long. When we center policies of interest instead of people whom we agree with, we find we have far more in common we each other than we first believed."


The House has never voted on the Green New Deal-- and probably never will while Pelosi and Hoyer are calling the shots. Although AOC brought 101 co-sponsors for the resolution to the table in the 116th Congress, it was never taken seriously by the Democratic leadership, buried by Frank Pallone for Pelosi and never voted on. Many conservative Democrats used it as a kind insurance policy to help combat threats of primaries from the left but did nothing to help move the legislation.



Today Data For Progress released a new poll this morning showing tremendous support for the components of the Green New Deal (below) and when asked if they would like their member of Congress to co-sponsor it, 57% of likely voters said yes and just 31% opposed their member co-sponsoring it. Among Democrats, 81% were in favor and just 8% were in opposition. 57% of independents and 33% of Republicans also would like to see their member of Congress co-sponsor the Green New Deal.

Data for Progress also reported that "A majority of voters also say they’d be more likely to vote for their representative if they co-sponsor the Green New Deal when it’s re-introduced (51% say they are more likely, 34% say they are less likely). Additionally, when Data for Progress presented voters with a right-wing talking point that the Green New Deal would be 'a waste of taxpayer money that will increase the national debt,' support remained resilient with an 18-point margin of voters still backing the climate platform."


In their polling memo, Data for Progress emphasized these key findings:


  • 66% support expanding federal tax credits for domestic production of renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles

  • 68% support expanding federal funding for researching and developing new energy technologies to reduce emissions in hard-to-abate industries

  • Even when presented with oppositional talking points about the cost, a majority of voters (57 percent) support expanding federal procurement of American-made clean vehicles

  • 73% support increasing inter-agency collaboration to reduce emissions in the housing, agriculture, and transportation sectors

  • By a 38-percentage-point margin, voters support the Department of Energy updating its mission to reflect climate, clean energy, and environmental justice goals

  • 68% support the government prioritizing funding for researching and developing technologies that target frontline communities


Why doesn't House Democratic leadership ride this sentiment to midterm wins? The are corrupt and take money from interests opposed to the Green New Deal. They are status quo conservatives and fear change. They are ancient and no longer have the intellectual capacity to understand the critical importance of the Green New Deal to people below the retirement age. They are unable to persuade anyone of something they don't believe in themselves (the best reason for dumping them). A number of conservative Democrats-- primarily Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- oppose the legislature because they think it will cause them to lose their seats, even though the only Democrats who lose in the real world are thrones who oppose this kind of legislation, not the ones who embrace it and campaign on it.


Democratic leadership is freaked out because of how many incumbents lost last year. But look who was defeated for reelection-- all New Dems and Blue Dogs who opposed the progressive agenda; no progressives lost their seats.

  • Anthony Brindisi (Blue Dog-NY)

  • Kendra Horn (Blue Dog-OK)

  • Joe Cunningham (Blue Dog-SC)

  • Xochitl Torres Small (Blue Dog-NM)

  • Ben McAdams (Blue Dog-UT)

  • Max Rose (Blue Dog-NY)

  • Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)

  • TJ Cox (New Dem-CA)

  • Gil Cisneros (New Dem-CA)

  • Harley Rouda (New Dem-CA)

  • Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (New Dem-FL)

  • Abby Finkenauer (pro-New Dem-IA)

  • Donna Shalala (zero-FL)


It is also worth noting that 3 Democratic long-time incumbents were defeated by candidates running to their left and aggressively backing the Green New Deal: Cori Bush beat Lacy Clay in St Louis, Jamaal Bowman beat Eliot Engel (New Dem) in the Bronx/Westchester and Marie Newman beat Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog) in Chicagoland.

And speaking of Marie Newman, she started the day today with this tweet about another very popular issue that conservatives oppose-- student loan forgiveness:

The CNBC report by Annie Nova that she linked to notes that "even among those in support of cancelling education debt, there are disagreements, particularly over how big the relief should be and who should get it. For example, some have floated the idea of forgiving the loans of essential workers or only low-income Americans. Higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz recently put a report together, comparing some of these different forgiveness plans and their potential impacts... Some experts say any student debt forgiveness should be targeted at low-income Americans, pointing out that many with education debt have high salaries. Roughly two-thirds of student loan borrowers in the U.S. earn under $100,000 a year. It would cost the government around $938 billion to erase the loans for everyone under that threshold, according to the analysis by Kantrowitz. A third of borrowers make less than $50,000, and it would cost around $437 billion to forgive just these people’s loans."


At the moment, the main point of contention among student loan forgiveness proponents is over how much debt should be scrapped.
If all federal student loan borrowers got $10,000 of their debt forgiven, the outstanding education debt in the country would fall to around $1.3 trillion, from $1.7 trillion, according to Kantrowitz.
And roughly one-third of federal student loan borrowers, or 15 million people, would see their balances reset to zero.
Canceling $50,000 for all borrowers, on the other hand, would shrink the country’s outstanding student loan debt balance to $700 billion, from $1.7 trillion. Meanwhile, the debt for 80% of federal student loan borrowers, or 36 million people, would be gone entirely.

"Here’s the bottom line for me," said Washington state House candidate Jason Call: "in the wealthiest nation on the planet-- one that is routinely spends more on the military than the next dozen countries-- nobody should go into debt to get an education. Decades ago a high school education was sufficient for the majority of jobs. Now a great many employees are seeking not only a Bachelor’s but also grad school as prerequisites for employment. But here’s the kicker-- even with those degrees, there’s no guarantee of employment and no guarantee that any employer won’t go belly up in a volatile business climate. Are we really ok with saddling millions with tens of thousands with debt, for limited employment prospects? Right now, student debt is a huge drain on the spending power of the middle and working class-- sectors that drive a healthy economy. We need to cancel that burden for everyone. It should be universal, and we need to eliminate tuition and fees for state and community colleges. Education is one of the few real avenues to equalizing income, to take that option away from the most vulnerable and marginalized communities should be anathema to our moral compass as a country. The rest of the world has this figured out, but again our perpetual for profit national identity is preventing common sense policy."


Houston progressive Charles Thompson, an educator himself, told me that "In addition to canceling 100% of existing student loan debt, I believe it's important that we take the next step-- reforming the entire system by implementing the following: lower interest rates on all new federal loans, an end to federal subsidies for for-profit colleges, freezing interest rates while under deferment, and including student loans under bankruptcy laws. Of course, I believe the long-term goal is working towards fully funding college tuition at all public universities and colleges."


Another Data for Progress poll, this one from January, show that majorities of likely voters favor forgiving $50,000 for people earning less than $125,000 a year-- and more so than people who prefer the $10,000 number that Biden prefers.


Among the general voting public 54% favor the $50,000 number (including 74% of Democrats, 49% of independents and 36% of Republicans). Opposition is 37% (including 17% of Democrats, 42% of independents and 55% of Republicans).