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The youth-led Sunrise Movement launched a campaign earlier this year to urge the Democratic Party to hold a 2020 presidential primary debate about the climate crisis. (Photo: Sunrise Movement/Twitter)

The youth-led Sunrise Movement launched a campaign earlier this year to urge the Democratic Party to hold a 2020 presidential primary debate about the climate crisis. (Photo: Sunrise Movement/Twitter)

DNC Dithers While the World Burns

Does anyone else find it strange that nearly every Democratic presidential candidate has publicly called for a climate debate the DNC refuses to hold?

Tom Weis

It wasn’t long ago that seemingly every green group in America was up in arms over the Democratic Party’s self-defeating refusal to sponsor a nationally televised presidential debate on the climate crisis. With moral clarity, climate campaigners loudly demanded that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sponsor a debate to determine which candidate is best prepared to lead a climate emergency response to protect our children.

Then came the DNC’s summer meeting, where the Democratic Party establishment not only quashed demands for a debate, but poured salt in the wound by passing a resolution designed to prevent candidates from participating in climate debates organized by others. Since then, the conversation seems to have moved on. The fire and fury has abated. But the worldfire hasn’t. Neither has the need for climate emergency debates.

So I ask again: how do Democrats plan to make the leap from fearfully refusing to sponsor a climate debate to the next President of the United States suddenly being ready to rally an entire nation to get behind a WWII-scale climate mobilization, as their governing platform dictates? 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.

Adding insult to injury, not one climate question was asked by moderators at the last Democratic debate. This flies in the face of DNC Chair Tom Perez’s public assurance back in June: “I made clear to our media partners that the issue of climate change must be featured prominently in our debates. That didn’t happen in 2016—and it was wrong.” The fact that it’s still happening in 2019 is not only wrong. It’s dangerous. This glaring omission—and the paltry amount of time devoted to the climate question in the first three Democratic debates—only reaffirms the need for a climate-specific debate.

Does anyone else find it strange that nearly every Democratic presidential candidate has publicly called for a climate debate the DNC refuses to hold? That isn’t democratic. Nor is it smart. Poll after poll shows how extremely vulnerable Donald Trump is on this issue. Leading on climate is how Democrats can win back the White House in 2020.

The longer we get into the primary season, the easier it will be for the DNC to complain it’s too late to change the rules. It’s crystal clear what’s going on here: the fossilized faction of the party is trying to run out the campaign clock, while the world burns.

It’s time for green groups to reignite a green fire under Tom Perez and the DNC.


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Tom Weis

Tom Weis

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

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