Organizers strategize for Green New Deal at YDSA conference


Emma Edmund/Daily Senior Staffer

Roberto Clack (left), Sean Estelle, Ashik Siddique and Arcadia Schmid all speak at the Young Democratic Socialists of America 2020 Winter Conference. The four talked about strategizing for Green New Deal advocacy and implementation.

Emma Edmund, City Editor

CHICAGO — Organizers from across the country came together to strategize and discuss advocating for and implementing a Green New Deal during the Young Democratic Socialists of America 2020 Winter Conference.

The conference, which spanned the entire weekend, drew students from around the country and featured workshops to help attendees build skills in areas such as grassroots fundraising and creating a multiracial working class movement.

On Saturday morning, attendees gathered for a panel about the Green New Deal with prominent members from Democratic Socialists of America, YDSA and Warehouse Workers for Justice, an organization that fights for labor rights in warehouse in distribution centers.

The Green New Deal is an ambitious congressional resolution aimed at reducing the negative consequences of climate change. Among other objectives, the plan calls for the United States to source 100 percent of its power demand from renewable sources, and for the government to provide job training to communities who currently rely on jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

The panelists discussed aspects of the Green New Deal that particularly appeal to DSA, including decarbonizing the economy as quickly as possible and democratizing major energy systems. The panelists also discussed how Green New Deal organizers can incorporate traditionally marginalized communities.

“Get really specific about what organizations you are building with,” said panelist Sean Estelle, a DSA National Political Committee member. “Talking about people of color broadly is not super helpful, in my experience. Be specific about who you’re building relationships with, who you’re developing as leaders, and, also then, the specific material conditions about building a multiracial organization.”

One audience member asked the panelists how the organization would evolve its fight the Green New Deal, should U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) become president.

Sanders, DSA’s endorsed candidate, won the popular vote in the Iowa caucuses and won the nomination in the New Hampshire primary and currently leads the Democratic field in the Nevada polls. Sanders supports the Green New Deal, and his campaign website states several particular climate change-related policies he wants to implement; for example, creating 20 million jobs to deal with the climate crisis and investing in public lands.

Ashik Siddique, one of the panelists and a member of the DSA Ecosocialist Working Group, said Sanders’ success so far in the presidential race puts YDSA and DSA in a unique position to have a greater say in governmental policy, should Sanders win. Siddique admitted that members of the party still have to strategize about how they could potentially use the power of the presidency to achieve their goals.

“We’re just really unprepared to govern,” he said. “That’s something a lot of just really haven’t had to consider in the United States. We’ve been really good at protesting from the margins.”

For some of the panelists, Sanders doesn’t represent the end-all, be-all goal of the movement, and that they hoped to continue to advocate for aspects of the Green New Deal should Sanders not live up to the movement’s expectations.

Communication freshman Dylan Zou, a Daily op-ed contributor and part of the group of students who founded Northwestern’s chapter of YDSA, also attended the panel. Zou came to the conference for a multitude of reasons, including to learn from other YDSA members, but also to hear about the Green New Deal, which Zou said is an important issue for Northwestern YDSA to consider.

“I personally think the Green New Deal is the most important issue on campus,” Zou said. “I’m sure you could ask anyone (at the YDSA conference) and they’d say ‘yeah, I support the Green New Deal,’ because I know I do, too.”

Critics of the Green New Deal often point out its cost as a prohibitive factor to the deal’s acceptance and implementation. The Green New Deal itself is a nonbinding resolution, meaning none of the proposal would actually become law even if approved, and it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint a dollar amount in policies stemming from the proposal.

Arcadia Schmid, the panel’s facilitator and the YDSA Ecosocialism and Green New Deal Committee Chair, emphasized the urgency of the climate crisis as a reason to implement the New Deal as quickly as possible. The audience met Schmid’s words with applause.

“Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s going to be more expensive for us if we don’t have a habitable planet,” Schmid said.

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