Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who’s also a Democratic presidential candidate, had hoped to hold a climate change debate as the primaries get underway. But the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has said a definite “no” to that.
And Inslee told GQ the DNC has gone a step further. Committee representatives also told him if he participates in any unauthorized climate change forums held by any other organizations he’ll be barred from participating in its officially sanctioned debates.
In response, DNC chair Tom Perez has released a statement asserting that the committee decided not to dedicate entire debates to any single issue. Perez claims it wants to “make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on all the issues.”
The @DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area – we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on all the issues.
— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) June 6, 2019
In an interview with Mother Jones, DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said the committee had informed all of the candidates, including Inslee, about the “ground rules” regarding “unsanctioned debates” several months ago. She added the committee encourages candidates to participate in issue-specific forums instead.
But Inslee says he has his doubts about party-based debates, adding he may still participate in ones that aren’t authorized.
“I cannot rule out any other debate that would highlight both the necessity of defeating the climate crisis and calling for the candidates to step up to the plate,” he told Mother Jones in a Thursday interview via phone. “Sixty-second sound bites, which is all you’ll be able to get in a party debate, is grossly inadequate to the task.”
Inslee criticized the DNC for “trying to eliminate an opportunity to have a debate” and for “blacklisting candidates who want to have one.”
And he added a reasonable discussion on transitioning away from fossil fuels isn’t something you can do in a mere minute.
“You have to understand how constricted the opportunity for a full discussion for this will be when we’re talking about mobilizing and rebuilding the entire economy to decarbonize over the next couple of decades,” Inslee says. “You can’t describe the mobilization of the economy in 60-second sound bites.”
There’s currently no climate change debate, DNC-sanctioned or otherwise, scheduled. But the Green New Deal affiliated advocacy organization Sunrise Movement plans to protest outside the second debate in Detroit and is considering hosting its own.
“The American people deserve a climate debate,” Varshini Prakash, the organization’s co-founder and executive director. “If the DNC isn’t willing to put it on, we’ll consider organizing one ourselves.”
Since April, a number of notable progressives have been pressuring the DNC to host its first-sanctioned climate change debate. Organizations like Friends of The Earth, CREDO Action, Greenpeace, 350.org, and the Sunrise Movement have all stepped up the pressure for the DNC to promote primetime coverage on the subject, which received little attention during the 2016 election cycle.
In the meantime at least a dozen candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) have all joined the cause.
Featured image courtesy of the video above