Several Democratic Presidential Candidates have been aggressive in their proposals against climate change. Beto O’Rourke proposed an ambitious $5 trillion climate plan. Elizabeth Warren has also clearly been a proponent of climate policy. But without a doubt, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has been the boldest. So much so, he’s made a huge bet to base his entire platform on combating climate change.
His bet seems promising though. Numbers show that viewers are starting to really care about climate change as an issue, particularly on the left. Statistics showed that some 82% of young voting Democrats saw climate change as a “top priority,” according to CNN polls. Despite compelling numbers, the DNC isn’t biting.
It recently told Inslee’s team that it had no plans to organize a climate debate. Further, the DNC announced it would bar any presidential candidate from DNC-organized debates if he/she were to participate in other climate debates.
Behind The Decision
Despite 53 voting members of the DNC writing to DNC Chair Tom Perez requesting a climate debate, the resolution was ultimately denied. There are a number of factors that may have impacted the decision. Some speculate that denying a climate-specific presidential debate is one of the DNC’s ways of shielding Biden from steering too far left or right.
Implications of Not Holding A Climate Debate
The DNC refusing to hold a climate debate plays a silencing role. Quite directly, it prevents candidates like Inslee, O’Rourke, Warren, and others from communicating with voters about climate change. But this decision particularly impacts the trajectory of Inslee’s campaign, considering his platform is mostly comprised of climate policy.
Inslee currently polls around 0.5%, trailing the Democratic favorites by a fairly significant amount. Not having a climate debate would force Inslee to focus on voicing the rest of his platform; hence, it’d allow Inslee to reach voters he might not have otherwise reached through his climate policy.
Of course, it’d also be a huge negative for Inslee, who would be the clear favorite in a climate debate. After all, he’s one of the only contenders in the Democratic field who’s been truly involved in passing climate policy. We’re talking about the Washington Clean Energy Bill he played an integral role in passing.
The Option Of Defying The DNC
Although Inslee could conceivably defy the DNC and participate in debates organized by other organizations, they wouldn’t get nearly the views DNC-sanctioned debates are projected to get. Again, don’t forget that Inslee currently polls at around half a percent nationally. This means Inslee needs to get his name out there as much as possible if he has any chance of winning.
The truth is, though climate change is picking up speed as a mainstream political point of discussion, it isn’t nearly mainstream enough to get Inslee elected. In other words, by every estimate, Inslee needs to leverage his unique climate platform in tandem with other policy to rake in votes.
In conclusion, though defying the DNC would reaffirm Inslee’s dedication to his climate platform, he likely won’t be changing anyone’s opinion of him. That is, his current supporters already understand his mandate and his track record.
That’s why what Inslee’s doing now is a smart campaign strategy. He’s not outright defying the DNC and is instead exposing the DNC’s response to him and bringing light to the importance of a climate debate. He’s garnered tons of support from his Democratic opponents, including the likes of Warren and Biden.
Inslee has since started a petition to make a climate debate possible. It’s unclear whether the petition, if popular, would end up changing the DNC’s mind, but it certainly is a starting point.
Inslee’s determined rhetoric has clearly moved voters on Twitter, who have managed to make #ClimateDebate a popular hashtag. The demand for a climate debate is clearly there. Now it’s up to the DNC to decide whether or not it will allow open discussion about the environment on a political level or continue to exert its ominous influence on the Democratic field.