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Can the Climate Youth Tip the 2020 Election Against Trump?

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Can the Climate Youth Tip the 2020 Election Against Trump? 1This story is part of Now cover the climate, a global journalistic collaboration that strengthens reporting on climate history.

T.today The nation and other Covering Climate Now partners are hosting a First-Time Voter Youth Day to highlight the voices of the generation hardest hit by climate change as we launch a week of co-reporting on Climate Change Policy 2020. More than any other group, the Sunrise movement put the Green New Deal on the public agenda. Because of the climate emergency, its members, mostly teenagers and 20 years of age, organized protests (sit-in strikes against Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Republican Mitch McConnel), but also helped draft laws (those of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey). In a new book Winning the Green New Deal: Why we have to, how we canAccording to Varshini Prakash, the group’s executive director, the key to Sunrise’s success lies in the group’s use of both protest and electoral organizations to build political power.

– Mark Hertsgaard

M.ark H.ertsgaard: The very first line of your new book says, “Young People Must Stand Up.” Indeed, this year, many young people with the Sunrise movement stood up to help Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in democratic primaries – Jamaal Bowman in New York, Cori Bush in Missouri, and especially Ed Markey, who beats a Kennedy for the US for the first time in Massachusetts. What’s your secret – how do you win all these races?

V.Arshini P.Rakash: Youngsters on Zoom! This is no joke. In Jamaal Bowman’s race [in New York’s 16th congressional district], young people at sunrise made 800,000 of its 1.3 million calls. In the Markey race, when Joe Kennedy announced, he led the polls with 17 points. But the students of the Sunrise Movement were ultimately victorious because we bring kinetic energy into electoral politics. We see elections as an opportunity not only to choose another person but also to build our movement.

We have long seen that leftists and progressives have a real aversion to political power, a real fear of what it means to get caught up in politics. For us we have realized that legislation depends on who is passed [an elected official] feels responsible. I think that differentiated Sunrise from many climate organizations that operated it: We are not afraid of marrying civil disobedience and protest organization with hardened electoral organization.

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