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Another Open Letter to DNC Chair Tom Perez: How Are Democrats Going to Contain the Climate Worldfire If They Won’t Even Hold a Climate Debate?

Either the Democratic Party is committed to mobilizing America to "address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II" or it isn't.

How do Democrats envision making the leap from fearfully refusing to sponsor a climate debate to the next President of the United States suddenly being positioned to rally an entire nation to get behind a World War II-scale national climate mobilization? (Photo by mdgovpics/Flickr)

How do Democrats envision making the leap from fearfully refusing to sponsor a climate debate to the next President of the United States suddenly being positioned to rally an entire nation to get behind a World War II-scale national climate mobilization? (Photo by mdgovpics/Flickr)

Dear Tom,

Since the first open letter I wrote to you didn’t seem to get through, I’m trying again.

You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you. You made a deep impression. We met (twice) in Washington, DC in the fall of 2013 when you visited a drafty #Fast4Families tent on the National Mall to pay your respects to those of us fasting in the cold in support of common sense immigration reform. You were serving as President Obama’s Secretary of Labor at the time. I so appreciated you taking the time to come sit with us and really listen to what we had to say. I appreciated even more that you visited us a second time, bringing family members with you. To me, that spoke volumes about your humanity.

So what is going on? The world is on fire, yet the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—which you lead—is violently opposed to sponsoring a presidential debate on how to contain this worsening "worldfire." Why? Don’t say it’s the rules. The rule once barred the DNC from accepting corporate fossil fuel PAC money until you overturned that rule two months later. Don’t say that sponsoring a climate debate would favor one candidate over another. Nearly every presidential candidate has publicly called for a climate debate. And please don’t try to convince us that marathon climate town halls with dismally low viewership are replacements for prime time nationally televised debates.

So what is going on? Your own Party Platform declares that “[w]hile Donald Trump says that climate change is a 'hoax' created by and for the Chinese, Democrats recognize the catastrophic consequences facing our country, our planet, and civilization.” Poll after poll shows how just how vulnerable Trump is on this issue. Leading on climate is how Democrats can win back the White House. Your dogged refusal to provide a national platform for the Democratic candidates to debate how best to address this existential threat is not only self-defeating. It’s dangerous. It also defies these Democratic Party Platform ideas and beliefs that govern your job and the Democratic Party as a whole:

“Climate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security, and Democrats believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to wait for another nation to take the lead in combating the global climate emergency... We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II.”

Either the Democratic Party is committed to mobilizing America to “address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II” or it isn’t. How do Democrats envision making the leap from fearfully refusing to sponsor a climate debate to the next President of the United States suddenly being positioned to rally an entire nation to get behind a World War II-scale national climate mobilization? We both know that’s not how the world works. You get there in steps and the next step is for the DNC to sound the alarm that we are actually in a crisis by holding a climate debate. We need an honest national conversation on a national debate stage to rally the American people around the need for a climate emergency response. Only a debate will reveal to voters which Democratic candidate is best prepared to lead that emergency response.

I sensed you were a good person when I met you in 2013. I feel the same thing now. I believe you have it in you to do the right thing, not that it will be easy or comfortable. But when everything is said and done, what do you want history to remember you for; that you played the political game skillfully, or that you used your position of power to do everything in your power to enable the Democratic Party to contain the raging worldfire that threatens the lives of our children?

Calls for a DNC-sponsored climate debate are only going to grow. How do I know? Humanity’s future is at stake. It is why millions of people are expected to join a youth-led Sept. 20-27 Global Climate Strike – to demand climate justice.

So show us what you showed me in that drafty tent in 2013 when you saw that people’s lives were on the line. Show me that my faith in you is not misplaced.

Sanction a climate debate.

Tom Weis

Tom Weis is the president of Climate Crisis Solutions in Boulder, Colorado.

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