The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is engaged in a peculiar debate. Since April, there has been a growing grassroots crusade by such groups as the Sunrise Movement, 350.org, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Credo Action demanding the DNC sponsor a presidential debate focused exclusively on climate change.
The DNC leadership has pushed back, pointing to the number of critical single issues that could be individually debated. In June, DNC Chair Tom Perez argued that devoting debates to single issues, especially those issues pushed by single candidates, was unfair.
“We don’t have enough debates to do that,” Perez said.
The issue of devoting more time to climate questions significantly intensified following the Miami debates. Only 15 minutes of the two-day four-hour presidential debates focused on climate.
The Sunrise Movement held a three-day sit-in outside the DNC’s Washington headquarters and they promised to take their protests on the road. “We need a damn climate debate,” Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement said.
In addition, nearly every presidential candidate is now calling for an exclusive climate debate. They have joined Washington Governor Jay Inslee who initiated the call back in April by circulating a petition urging the DNC to act.
“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,” Inslee said in an interview with Mother Jones. “Sixty-second sound bites, which is all you’ll be able to get in a party debate, is grossly inadequate to the task.”
Apparently, all the criticism has moved the DNC to reconsider the climate debate question. The DNC’s 60-member executive committee met in Pittsburgh and recently forwarded a resolution calling for a climate debate. That resolution may be voted on by the full DNC committee in San Francisco at their August 22-24 meeting.
There is every indication the climate debate resolution is a serious effort to open discussion since it was cosponsored by executive committee member Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker.
“This isn’t just, ‘Let’s have a debate to have some entertainment,'” said Christine Pelosi, “It’s not just for show.”
There appears to be two other alternatives if the DNC fails to set a debate exclusively on climate questions. Another resolution was proposed by South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson, to hold a “Climate forum” as opposed to a debate. That will likely be considered by the DNC at their August meeting as well. That suggestion would be similar to the reproductive rights forum that was held in June by Planned Parenthood. The forum would differ from the debate in format.
The final suggestion is to apply pressure to the networks sponsoring the debates and demand a greater emphasis on climate questions.
The question of climate looms large for voters. Various polling in both Iowa and nationally ranks climate as a major issue that voters will consider in selecting their candidates.
A thorough debate about solving the climate crisis should be an issue the DNC embraces. Until the DNC can find a reasonable solution it’s creating another division within the party.
by Rick Smith