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OPINION: To Clean Up The Environment, We Must First Clean Up Our Politics

In these times of mounting national and international crisis --  from poverty to climate change -- a lesson that emerges from studying how liberal democracies fail is condensed in a few words noted in Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War, “rights” are only relevant “between equals in power."

The Declaration of Independence declares a right to equality, but the reality of inequality for the powerless remains.

The great task of the independent political movement is to empower the American people to free our democracy and government from the sclerotic corrupt control of the major political parties. Independent nonpartisan political reforms such as open primaries, open debates, nonpartisan redistricting, campaign finance disclosure requirements and other reforms are a means to give power to the people, without such power equal rights have little meaning.

Take, for example, the Democratic Party leaders' attempts to sideline the movement for a Green New Deal in Congress.

The newly-elected representative from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose sincerity, hard work, and passion are inspiring, is advocating a blueprint for the U.S. House to write legislation for a Green New Deal.

[pullout_blockquote quote="The great task of the independent political movement is to empower the American people to free our democracy and government from the sclerotic corrupt control of the major political parties." author="Dr. Jessie Fields, IVN Editorial Voice"]

A Green New Deal is a holistic approach to integrate the urgent need for clean energy with the equally urgent need for broad job opportunity on the scale of the original New Deal.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez proposed that the House set up a select committee to work on drafting the legislation for a national transition to clean energy tied to clean energy jobs, universal job training, education, health care programs, and a living wage.

According to Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal the committee would be made up of 15 members, Republicans as well as Democrats, and no one on the special committee would be allowed to take campaign donations from oil and gas companies. The committee was to have one year to draft legislation to present to Congress.

In a recent poll, the Green New Deal proposal, which many were just hearing about, received widespread public support. The poll found 81 percent of registered voters from across the political spectrum supported the policies outlined when told about the Green New Deal, showing the potential for a coalition to be built across party and partisan lines. And more than 300 state and local officials voiced support for a Green New Deal in an open letter.

Despite this support, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the proposal and revived a weaker Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which will not focus on a Green New Deal and will be chaired by Florida Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor, who was one of the people who delivered a speech nominating Pelosi to be Speaker. Rep. Castor is not adhering to the proposal that the members of the committee not accept money from oil and gas companies and the committee will not have subpoena power.

Activists with Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement who have advocated for a Green New Deal vowed to continue the fight.

My wish for the New Year is that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and other newly-elected members of the House form alliances with independents to dismantle the control of the party insiders. To clean up our environmental, we have to clean up our politics. Support for both can build powerful new coalitions.

Photo Credit: Sunrise Movement

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