Sparking a torrent of backlash from Democratic White House contenders, environmental organizations, and youth climate leaders, the Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday that it will not host a climate-specific presidential primary debate and will punish candidates who attend a debate hosted by any other organization.
“This move is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of activists and all of the candidates calling on the DNC to hold a dedicated climate debate.”
—Brandy Doyle, Credo Action
News of the DNC’s decision was made public by 2020 presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who was the first Democratic contender to call for a debate focused solely on the climate crisis.
“Today, my team received a call from the Democratic National Committee letting us know that they will not host a climate debate,” Inslee said in a statement. “Further, they explained that if we participated in anyone else’s climate debate, we will not be invited to future debates. This is deeply disappointing.”
Inslee said he will pressure the DNC leadership to change its mind, arguing that the climate emergency “merits a full discussion of our plans” rather than the “short exchange of talking points” typical of past presidential debates.
“The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want to debate the existential crisis of our time,” Inslee said. “The next president must make defeating this crisis the top priority of the nation. And I will continue to do everything I humanly can to ensure the climate crisis is at the top of the national agenda.”
Environmental groups that have led the grassroots push for a climate-focused debate echoed Inslee’s outrage, which helped make the Twitter hashtag #ClimateDebate a trending topic in the United States.
U.S. Youth Climate Strike, whose petition calling on the DNC to host a climate debate has garnered over 53,000 signatures, vowed to “fight back” against the committee’s refusal to give the planetary crisis the national spotlight it deserves.
“Disappointed to learn DNC will not honor the rallying cries of their own base, and will not only not host a climate debate, but will also ban any candidate who participates in one from participating in DNC debates,” the group tweeted. “Again and again, the establishment and adults have failed us. We need policy now.”
“This is an outrage. Almost every major candidate has supported the call for a climate debate, but the DNC won’t even let the American people hear their plans for one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
Brandy Doyle, campaign manager for Credo Action, said in a statement Wednesday that the decision shows DNC chairman “Tom Perez doesn’t seem to care much about the climate crisis.”
“[B]ut many of the Democratic candidates and a vast majority of Democratic primary voters do,” Doyle said. “This move is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of activists and all of the candidates calling on the DNC to hold a dedicated climate debate.”
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