Pence Takes Aim at Green New Deal in VP Debate With Little Pushback

Last night’s vice presidential debate solidified one thing: that Republicans know their weakness on climate issues and that they’re going to try with all their might to breathe new life into the narrative that action on the environmental kills jobs.

Even before a question was asked by moderator Susan Page specifically on the environment, Vice President Mike Pence mentioned the Green New Deal as an example of a jobs killer 4 times (he’d bring it up 11 times in total). Pence couldn’t articulate what he specifically found unacceptable about the Green New Deal but he (along with Donald Trump) have routinely weaponized the term to twist what the resolution actually entails.

Democrats must stop shying away from boldly talking about climate issues because fundamentally the economy, nor any other issue matters if we don’t have a habitable planet to call home.

Why This Matters: As we’ve said before, Americans need to be sold a vision of a better future as what’s been before us (a pandemic, massive wildfires, persistent hurricanes) is bleak. The Biden climate plan is a jobs plan that puts Americans back to work and revives the ailing manufacturing sector while protecting workers from diminishing industries. 

As Vice President Pence claimed that the Trump administration would create jobs, Senator Harris could have asked where he envisions these jobs coming from–as the fastest-growing jobs in America are in wind and solar. If Republicans aren’t talking about a transition to a clean energy and climate-resilient economy, they aren’t being realistic about putting Americans back to work.

The economy is where Pence came across the most confident yet climate change poses an immense risk to our economic wellbeing and currently the world’s 5th largest economy (California) is being crippled by ongoing wildfires and the resulting smoke. So when Pence delivered the line, “They’d impose the Green New Deal, which would crush American energy, would increase the energy costs of American families in their homes, and literally would crush American jobs.”

Harris missed an opportunity to sell some of the most profound components of a Biden/Harris agenda: its ambitious climate action goals. 


The New York Times Magazine’s Nicole Hannah Jones summed up the sentiment of the night well:

Not So Clean Air: When Vice President Pence said that “our air and land are cleaner than any time ever recorded” it was truly a laughable moment. The Trump administration has gutted key components of the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts and air pollution has gone up under his leadership as have the chances that Americans will have their drinking water contaminated. It’s estimated that 100,000 Americans die each year from air pollution which is a crisis that is rarely addressed. 

Trump’s legacy of enabling polluters has cost American lives on top of the 250,000 lost from COVID. And we know that people who live in polluted areas die from COVID at higher rates. So when Trump and Pence attack the Green New Deal, or more accurately the Democratic push for aggressive climate action, they’re signaling that they’re ok with needless loss of life. That’s a message Democrats must work to convey to voters, rather than shying away from any talk associated with the Green New Deal.


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