by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s fitting that the Green New Deal pushed by many but popularized by Democratic phenom Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had her 60 Minutes debut on Sunday, is a triumph of recycling.
Not of plastic bags or soda cans, but of ideas. Specifically, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the impulses behind it.
To her credit, Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) is fairly honest about her ideological recycling. …
… Alas, AOC, as many now call her, started the story in the middle. The need to prepare for war marked the end of the New Deal. As FDR put it, it was time for “Dr. New Deal” to be replaced by “Dr. Win the War.”
Ironically, the New Deal itself was largely about war mobilization — without war. Roosevelt campaigned for president promising to adapt Woodrow Wilson’s wartime industrial policies to fight the Great Depression. …
… I could go on, but the important point is that ever since philosopher William James coined the phrase the “moral equivalent of war,” American liberalism has been recycling the same basic idea: The country needs to be unified and organized as if we are at war, but not to fight a literal battle. The attraction stems from what John Dewey called “the social possibilities of war” — the ability to reorganize and unify society according to the schemes of planners and experts.
This was the through line of 20th-century liberalism, and now 21st-century liberalism, too. Wilson’s war socialism, FDR’s New Deal, Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Jimmy Carter’s declaration that the energy crisis was a “moral equivalent of war,” and Barack Obama’s “new foundation for growth,” with his Thomas Friedman-inspired talk about “Sputnik moments”: It’s all the same idea gussied up as something new.