California businessman Tom Steyer made his debut on the national debate stage last night, along with eleven of his closest Democratic presidential candidate friends.
One of Steyer’s two biggest issues — impeachment — led off the night. However, his other passion — climate change action — received no attention at all.
“I thought I was having a flashback to 2016,” Steyer told Starting Line in an interview of the lack of climate discussion. “I think that was a huge omission.”
Steyer has looked to distinguish his approach to the issue from the rest of the field by planning to call a national emergency on climate as soon as he’s sworn in, which would allow for additional avenues of action.
“I mean, I brought it up two or three times, and I think Bernie brought it up one time in passing,” he noted.
What dominated the first section of the debate was candidates’ differences over health care, which Steyer thought was lacking something.
“That health care debate was why I decided to run for president,” he said. “There was an extensive conversation about the differences in policies, but not a conversation about the fact that we have a broken government, and none of those policies can get enacted until we break this corporate stranglehold on democracy.”
Steyer explained that he thought the Democrats have had the same discussion in every debate over health care and other issues like gun violence, with no real solutions on how to get it passed through Congress.
“Until we break the corporate stranglehold, those are policies I don’t think can get enacted,” he said. “So, we’ve got to focus on how we get things done, not just what we want.”
While this was Steyer’s first debate, he didn’t exactly get a lot of time to make his case. One tracker put his speaking time at seven minutes and thirteen seconds, the lowest of the twelve candidates. If that bothered Steyer, he didn’t say it, instead saying he was simply happy to be there.
“Everybody would always want more time, but that was a chance for me to introduce myself to the American people,” Steyer said. “I thought I got a chance to do that, to explain why I’m running, what I think is the problem, what I think we can do … I thought it was a great opportunity, I thought I accomplished what I was trying to accomplish.”
He did get some time at the beginning of the debate to weigh in on impeachment, something Steyer was happy to see take central stage after he’d been pushing for the process for the better part of two years. Before entering the presidential race, Steyer had traveled the country and advertised extensively on with his Need to Impeach organization.
“I have such a different take on impeachment,” he said of the night’s discussion. “Those are a bunch of people from inside the beltway. They think impeachment is a beltway issue … The American people got it that this is a question of right and wrong, and Washington thought it was a question of political expediency … The American people insisted on the government doing the right thing, and they’re getting their way.”
Soon after last night’s debate, Steyer’s 3rd quarter fundraising report became public. It showed he had invested over $47 million of his own money into the race, and had spent nearly all of it. A lot of those funds went to TV and online ads that helped boost his message and his polling numbers to qualify for the debate.
Steyer said he’s ready to put even more of his money into the race.
“My history is when I see a huge problem in America, I organize around it,” Steyer said. “I put all my time into it, and I put a bunch of money into it, too. We’re trying to build an organization that’s actually trying to attack the corporate takeover of our government … That’s what I’m trying to do, and we’ll see how it goes.”
The former businessman also made a bit of a fashion statement last night, with Twitter lighting up with takes over his red plaid tie. As some people noticed, he’s worn the same style of tie at many events before, and Steyer indicated we’d likely see it again.
“I’ve worn that tie for decades,” he explained. “I’ve worn a red plaid tie for literally decades. It’s like running the flag up the flag poll. Ready to go to work, have some energy, bring it.”
by Pat Rynard