Introduction: Clueless DINOsaur Biden Gravely Menaces the Green New Deal
by Patrick Walker
Joe Biden … Green New Deal. The words stare at each other across the page in slack-jawed disbelief. Or in stark, staring mutual incomprehension. To clueless fossil Uncle Joe, anyone mouthing the words “Green New Deal” (GND, for short) might as well be speaking Klingon.
That’s because Joe Biden literally comes from another political planet. Or more precisely, from a geologically distant, long-forgotten era of this one. While you can’t walk two feet in Congress without tripping over DINOs (Democrats In Name Only), Clueless Joe is virtually the only Democrat—and certainly the only Democrat running for president—who adds to boringly common DINO status the unique distinction of being an ecological dinosaur. Perhaps the best way to capture Biden’s unique combo of planet-deadly traits—Republican policies and a hopelessly outmoded, pre-climate-emergency worldview—is to spell this “DINOsaur.”
In other words, Biden’s largely a de facto Republican so out of touch with Democrats’ current voter base and humanity’s present ecological crises that he, unlike most Dem presidential hopefuls, won’t even pay lip service to the GND. For unlike disingenuous fellow DINO Nancy Pelosi—who fully groks what the GND is and therefore works tirelessly to sabotage it—DINOsaur Joe lives on a defunct political planet where radical programs like the GND can’t even be conceived and the resident doomed lizards are simply clueless as to why any fellow creatures (aware of that onrushing asteroid, these days a climate “asteroid”) would clamor for them.
See, a candidate who can’t even conceive of a program is certain not to enact it—especially a staggeringly ambitious program like the GND that will require unprecedented political heavily lifting. As the DINO least evolved to grasp the GND, Joe Biden is by far the DINO least likely—even under the most relentless popular pressure—to start enacting it. Uncle Joe is utterly clueless about America’s urgent need for a GND, and savvier DINOs like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer—keenly aware of the GND but with GND-hostile priorities—secretly love him that way.
Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but even trying with an old DINOsaur is the ultimate study in futility. Simply being a DINO—a fitting stigma for most current Democrat presidential hopefuls—is hardly up-to-date or progressive, but it does include having neurons evolved enough to master the “new trick” of paying the GND extensive lip service. A presidential campaign where the GND is the central, unavoidable topic of conversation—an aim ardently shared by the Sunrise Movement and Bernie or Bust 2.0—would simply make Biden’s DINOsaur head explode. A result devoutly to be wished, since our stark choice may well be between the extinction of political dinosaurs like Biden and humanity’s own.
Electing current Democrat frontrunner Biden would—from a climate action standpoint—simply be the Jurassic Park nightmare of dinosaurs running amok made politically real. And—to be frighteningly clear—intolerable climate danger looms whether or not prospective nominee Biden defeats Donald Trump. Since Biden is a lackluster, out-of-touch, warmongering neoliberal—Chris Hedges rightly brands him “a goofy male version of Hillary Clinton”—his losing (like Clinton) to arch-climate-destroyer Trump is perhaps even likelier than his own fossilized climate policies.
Fortunately, there’s one ultra-powerful weapon for keeping DINOsaur Joe Biden from running amok and dragging already-feckless Democrat climate response back to the Stone Age. Let’s make the 2020 election all about the GND—a conversation Biden’s fossilized , neo-liberal worldview genetically bars him from joining.
Bernie or Bust 2.0: Our Only Party Is the Green New Deal
As pioneers of electoral revolt in 2016, Bernie or Bust’s co-founders knew that the Democratic Party establishment had long been a formidable obstacle to democracy and urgent political progress. We found in Bernie Sanders not the perfect candidate, but a unique, popular candidate sufficiently hostile to that establishment to make him a lightning rod for revolt—revolt deeper and more thoroughgoing than Sanders, for all his talk of “political revolution,” ever had in mind. Far from being devout “Sandernistas” or “sheepdogs” for Democrats’ Clinton establishment, we were intent on a prolonged political war to the death—by the most feasible available means—between the progressive left and the dangerous neo-liberal Democratic Party establishment.
As a living, exaggerated parody of the Democratic establishment at its most clueless and obstructive, Joe Biden is a worsened reincarnation of everything voters found “revolting” in Hillary Clinton. For 2020, not only have establishment Democrats found in Biden a standard bearer more hideous than Hillary, but they’ve done so in a presidential race whose peril and promise are historically unprecedented. No more potentially enlightened package of progressive policies than the GND has ever appeared—a package rightly acclaimed by Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, and Noam Chomsky (to name just a distinguished few) as the pitch-perfect US response to humanity’s climate emergency. The devil of course lies in the details, and only a truly radical GND (clearly not some castrated versioned palmed off on us by establishment Democrats paying it lip service) will fulfill the GND’s historic promise.
As pragmatic radicals, Bernie or Bust’s co-founders have pledged our passionate loyalty to a strong, toothsome version of the GND. To the extent that we regard the GND itself as the only political “party” to which we owe loyalty, and everything else is pragmatic calculation rooted in that fundamental loyalty. We feel the GND has no chance whatsoever of fulfilling its historic, climate-saving promise unless legions of activists join us in making the GND their “party,” their unwavering object of political loyalty.
Yet, passionate loyalty to the GND still requires detailed calculation about candidates fit to enact it—especially when facing a “horse race” as crowded as the 2020 Democratic primaries. Perhaps surprisingly—but certainly conveniently for reconnecting with our Bernie or Bust followers—our pro-GND calculations led us to draw the same political battle lines as in 2016: Bernie Sanders and the progressive left vs. the Democratic Party establishment. An establishment represented at its most intolerably odious by Joe Biden.
Hence, we’re calling our updated (and we hope, improved) pro-GND version of Bernie or Bust “Bernie or Bust 2.0.” In the next section, we’ll explain the political calculation that makes Bernie Sanders by far the most promising standard bearer for the GND, with some strategy refinements related to the miraculously gutsy young insurgent Tulsi Gabbard.
So Why Insist on Bernie (Enhanced by Tulsi) Again?
To anyone who groks the urgency of implementing the GND, our desperate need to deep-six Joe Biden and similar “moderates”—in fact, staunch guardians of an untenable, extremist status quo—should be obvious. Such “moderate extremists” are in fact the deeply entrenched, self-serving Ancien Régime against whom all justified political revolutions are launched. To be a “moderate” in the face of criminally unjust government is to be an extremist, just as Biden, Clinton, Schumer, Pelosi and their establishment Democrat ilk are extremists in their “moderate” rejection of radical, but essential, measures to address humanity’s climate emergency. Only those calling for revolutionary measures—especially if they’re peaceful revolutionary measures—have any current claim to being rational or moral.
Even in 2016, based predominantly on runaway economic inequality and its democracy-destroying political and painful social consequences, Bernie Sanders was already calling for “political revolution.” This was even before the GND’s sudden explosion on national consciousness placed these inequality-related issues in the context of humanity’s climate emergency. So, even though Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) was the first national politician to openly publicize and promote today’s GND, it’s impossible to imagine her winning it national recognition without Sanders’ 2016 Democratic presidential campaign and its sweeping attack on economic inequality. Indeed, the Green Party (deliberately marginalized by our bipartisan political establishment and their lackeys in the corporate media) strove heroically but vainly for years—long before any voters had heard of AOC—to popularize the GND and thereby improve its own regrettably bleak electoral prospects.
Since AOC required Sanders’ insurgent Democratic presidential run to make the GND wildly popular, he richly deserves to be called the “godfather” (as Grist’s Zoya Teirstein insightfully called him) of today’s GND. All the more so because he—unlike most Democrat presidential hopefuls—warmly, openly embraces his GND “godchild.” As evidence, note that he is the first—and perhaps the only—presidential contender to appear (along with AOC and Naomi Klein!) at a Sunrise-sponsored event promoting the GND.
But even more importantly, the GND seems the clear logical fulfillment—amidst 2020’s far more alarming climate crisis—of Sanders’ 2016 call for political revolution. The 2020 GND, in short, is Sanders’ 2016 “political revolution” writ large. Which is why purported progressive presidential contenders too spineless to endorse Sanders’ political revolution in 2016—we think especially of Elizabeth Warren—should be distrusted as fitting stewards of today’s Green New Deal.
Consider, by contrast, the miraculously gutsy Tulsi Gabbard—hated and feared by establishment Democrats and their subservient media for precisely that reason. In 2016 the opportunistic Warren, possibly after cutting some private deal with Hillary Clinton, refused to endorse anyone, leaving Sanders—the candidate who clearly shared her anti-plutocratic principles—to swing in the wind as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) colluded with Clinton and major media to sabotage his candidacy. While Gabbard, with a far more precarious perch in the party yet acting as Warren’s full-spined anti-matter, indignantly resigned her post with the DNC to work on Sanders’ campaign. And on foreign policy, Gabbard has clearly been the gutsiest, most anti-establishment of Democrat presidential contenders—more so than Sanders, which posed us Bernie or Bust strategists quite a quandary, since global peace is a crucial component of an effective GND.
Ultimately, we sadly decided (as pragmatic radicals) that Tulsi can’t possibly win this time around, being so unfairly treated by liberal establishment media and having had little time to build the name recognition and national political organization of Sanders. But we decided to honor her in the same fashion we honor the regrettably unelectable Green Party: by making her a backup threat if Bernie loses the nomination (see next section).
Counter-extortion vs. Democrat Extortion: Preventing the “Empty Suit Election” at All Costs
If Bernie or Bust 2.0 is an improvement over the original version, it’s not simply because Bernie now represents not just “political revolution” but a climate-saving GND (which we frame as a green revolution). That’s certainly a considerable upgrade, but it’s just our luck and not at all our doing. If Bernie or Bust has improved our game, it’s by reflecting on the logic of own strategy, so as to better understand, communicate, and implement it.
What voters need to understand about Bernie or Bust 2.0 is that we’re all about counter-extortion—in defensive response to establishment Democrats’ intolerable, civilization-threatening electoral extortion. Which means, in short, extorting our votes for Joe Biden in an “Empty Suit Election” versus Donald Trump where no policy remotely relevant to average people’s concerns—and worst of all, humanity’s ever-worsening climate plight—will be offered.
With more than ever at stake, we cannot allow the Dem establishment to extort our votes for Biden simply because “we know his face” and “he’s not Trump.” The fate of civilization demands that a serious Green New Deal be on the table—which requires that empty-suit establishment DINOsaur Biden not be on the ballot. To guarantee that result, Bernie or Bust 2.0 is fully justified in exercising organized counter-extortion: we pledge never to vote for Biden under any conceivable circumstance but one, and that’s the virtually impossible case of him picking Tulsi Gabbard as his running mate (and Tulsi inexplicably accepting). We call this backup demand to run with Tulsi “#TulsiOrTrash the Democratic Party,” and it’s our tribute to Gabbard’s exceedingly rare anti-establishment courage.
We do offer other prospective non-Bernie nominees the option of receiving our votes provided they (again) meet the inflexible condition of making Tulsi Gabbard their running mate—in the hope of one day making her president. Whereas with Bernie, we allow him the liberty of using the vice-presidency as a bargaining chip to improve his chances of winning the Democratic nomination should no clear winner emerge from the primaries. But clearly, I’d prefer that Gabbard be his running mate, to keep GND stewardship in gutsy, anti-establishment hands for the long haul required to implement it. FDR’s original New Deal not only shows just how long the long haul of a major political overhaul can be (he was elected to four terms, no longer possible for presidents), but also the vehement opposition its stewards must face from self-serving establishment types. In Bernie and Tulsi, we see candidates provably willing (like FDR himself) to “welcome their hatred.” To feel serious cognitive dissonance, just try imagining Biden in that role.
Establishment Democrats will of course argue that by rejecting Biden, we’re electing Trump. To which we simply respond that by shoving an establishment GND enemy like Biden down our unwilling throats—when a popular GND could bury Trump in a landslide—they will be the ones electing Trump! And even without Bernie or Bust 2.0, the prospects of a warmongering, neo-liberal #GaffeMaster like Biden (essentially Hillary 2.0) beating Trump are shaky at best. Our counter-extortion—all for the sake of a climate-saving GND a President Biden would never promote—aims at making Trump’s victory over Biden even more likely, so as to stave off Biden’s catastrophic candidacy in advance.
We hope all GND lovers will join us in categorically rejecting the Democrat most inherently hostile (by his outmoded worldview) to GND policies. Anyone who has recently called Dick Cheney or Mike Pence “a decent guy” and is eager to reach “across the aisle” to a Republican Party that Noam Chomsky has rightly branded “the most dangerous organization in human history” is clearly living on a different planet—or in a DINOsaur era of this one. We need a populist GND—championed by a principled populist like Sanders–to sweep today’s criminally insane Republicans (whom Biden likes so much) into the dustbin of history. That’s why we’re Bernie or Bust 2.0.