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How the Green New Deal Went From a Grassroots Organizer’s Dream to a Major Talking Point for the Dems

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15.03.2019

Hundreds of youth climate activists converged on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's Washington, DC office in February to demand that he and other senators get behind the Green New Deal Resolution.Michael Nigro/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire

This story was originally published in Grist. It appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, a progressive group called the Justice Democrats jumped into action. If the liberal establishment had failed to keep Trump from power, clearly it was time for some fresh political blood. The group embarked on a hunt for potential candidates, putting out a nationwide call for nominations of community leaders who might make good members of Congress.

The following year, Justice Democrats invited a few standouts among those nominees to “The Candidate Summit,” a gathering in Frankfort, Kentucky. You’ve already heard a lot about one of them: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—now a freshman Congresswoman, social media maven, and pied piper for American progressives.

But you probably have not heard about another one of the people there: 35-year-old grassroots organizer Demond Drummer, who was at the time cofounder of a group that teaches computer science to kids on Chicago’s South Side. At that summit, Drummer realized that running for office wasn’t for him, at least for the time being. Instead, it sparked another idea: Creating a new progressive think tank that would explore how to jumpstart a more equitable society.

That thought remained preliminary until the summer of 2018, when Drummer attended the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. He sat through the talks, but he wasn’t hearing about ideas that could begin to address the problems we face in this country. He had a realization: The people who are in power have no clue what has to happen next. That was his aha moment, he said. He went from being interested in starting up an organization to thinking, “this is the goal of my life.”

He wondered: What are the ideas that might fix the economy and heal the planet? Would it be possible to build an organization that could come up with a solution to the “climate crisis, the economic crisis, and the global crisis, which is rooted in the history of systematic injustice,” as he put it, all at the same time?

“That really got me interested in jumping in on this idea of building an organization,” he said. “That was the idea of New Consensus.”

Later that year, he started putting the concept into action. Drummer’s notion, from the start, was that the US didn’t merely need to solve climate change. It needed an economic transformation, a re-envisioning and rethinking that would make it possible to put a sustainable future on solid ground.

He wasn’t the only one thinking this way—variations of this concept had been kicking around for several years, under the general rubric of a Green New Deal.

In the past five months, the Green New Deal has received reams of media attention. The hubbub is largely focused on Representative Ocasio-Cortez, who—with the help of a vocal cadre of young people affiliated with the activist group Sunrise Movement—popularized the idea.

In February, she, along with Massachusetts........

© Mother Jones