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DNC Chair Tom Perez Tries to Justify Failure to Prioritize Climate Crisis

The Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take global heating seriously is out of step with Democratic voters who now consider climate change to be a top-tier issue

The Democratic Party is foolish not to dedicate a presidential debate to this issue.  (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

The Democratic Party is foolish not to dedicate a presidential debate to this issue.  (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

Last week, during his national tour, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez stopped in Albuquerque to speak at a Democratic Party gathering. But he hastily left without taking questions. Luckily, I was able to approach Perez before his talk and handed him the RootsAction.org petition urging a presidential debate focused on climate change; more than 4,500 people had signed it the day before.

Perez cut me off before I could ask a question, but he did assert that there would be a “robust discussion of climate” during the debate season. Perez was referring to his reformulated response to the call for a climate-change debate – now saying that he is urging TV networks to have their panelists focus serious questioning on the topic.

Perez is passing responsibility for addressing climate change to the same corporate media which largely failed to ask any such questions in 2015 and 2016. This is no more logical than Perez’ prior justification for denying a debate on the biggest existential threat in the history of humankind – that the DNC would then have to allow every other candidate’s issue-specific debate ideas.

Democratic leaders are acting like they don’t understand the urgency of the problem or that they don’t care.

The Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take global heating seriously is out of step with Democratic voters who now consider climate change to be a top-tier issue. The world’s top scientists tell us there are only 11 years to take preventative action to get fossil fuels out of national economies, and this estimate is likely an understatement. But Democratic leaders are acting like they don’t understand the urgency of the problem or that they don’t care.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to establish a House committee on the Green New Deal, dismissing it as “the Green Dream or whatever they call it”. Instead, she and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer formed an advisory committee with no mandate to come up with a plan, no subpoena power to bring fossil fuel executives to account for their contribution to the climate catastrophe, and no rule prohibiting members of the committee from receiving fossil fuel industry money.

In the Senate, pro-coal Senator Joe Manchin is the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In August, 2018, the DNC reversed its brief ban on accepting fossil fuel donations.

It is little wonder that at the Albuquerque Democratic Party event, there were over 100 people, but virtually no one under the age of 40. Young voters believe that the government should do more about climate change, even if it slows down economic growth. Yet, fossil fuel donations to Democratic leadership still play an outsized role in the agenda of the party.

Now is the time for our nation’s leaders to encourage public discussion of the options for averting climate disaster. The Democratic Party is foolish not to dedicate a presidential debate to this issue.

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Pia Gallegos

Pia Gallegos

Pia Gallegos is the Chair of the Adelante Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

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