Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Joe Biden, described a grassroots push for a presidential climate debate sponsored by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as “dangerous territory in the middle of a Democratic primary process.”
The remarks came during a meeting of the DNC Resolutions Committee, which defeated the resolution in an 8-17 vote.
A DNC member, Sanders contended if the DNC was going to host “theme-focused” debates then members should have approved such debates back in 2018, not now “one-third of the way through the Democratic primary.”
She also suggested that media networks have ultimate control over what debates are televised. The DNC could approve a climate debate but find that no network would want to establish a contract to air the debate. However, Sanders put forward zero evidence that a media network would be inclined to refuse to air a climate debate.
Sanders invoked identity politics as well, saying, “I know that over the course of the last couple months, and even before in 2018 and even in early 2017, a number of people made their voices heard to the DNC that said they wanted a debate on black women. They wanted a debate on Latinx issues. That there should be a debate specifically focused on the indigenous community.”
“And my question is, what do we tell those folks who were told they cannot have a debate but then were encouraged and told they could have platforms? And I do believe there were a number of forums.”
Essentially, Biden’s senior advisor invoked black women, Latinx people, and indigenous communities to urge the committee to kill a resolution for a debate focused on climate issues, which would naturally involve matters of environmental justice that affect all of the aforementioned groups.
Doug Sovern, a reporter for KCBS radio, asked Florida DNC member Craig Smith, who was part of President Bill Clinton’s administration, why he opposed the resolution.
“How do I go back to my neighbors who lost kids at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and explain to them why they don’t get a special debate on guns?” Smith replied.
Sanders posed a similar question. DNC member Christine Pelosi, who introduced the amendment for a climate debate, told Sanders, “Do you want to propose an amendment to have a gun violence debate? Because if you propose it, I’ll support it.”
The Sunrise Movement is a youth advocacy group that has urged presidential candidates to support a climate debate as well as the Green New Deal.
Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Padlowdowski, a key backer of the resolution in the DNC, asserted, “This is about our own survival on the planet,” and, “We don’t have to lock ourselves into debates that don’t work for us.”
In July, Biden supported a DNC-sponsored debate. “I think we should have a climate debate. It’s the single most existential threat facing the country.”
Sierra Club national political director Ariel Hayes condemned the vote. “The DNC resolution committee made the wrong decision for our future, for our planet, and for the Democratic party, but we are hopeful that the voices of the nearly half million grassroots activists who have demanded a dedicated climate debate are heard during the DNC general session this weekend.”
Grassroots activists, including those with the Sunrise Movement, packed the room where the resolution committee meeting was held. Several sang the union protest song, “Which Side Are You On?” when members voted against the resolution.
A small victory was achieved in the sense that a different resolution passed to allow candidates to appear in forums on the “same stage, engaging one another in discussion.” Yet, as the Mercury News pointed out, the DNC’s own rules may still prohibit that from happening.
There will be a general session with DNC members on Saturday, August 24. Members who support the defeated resolution will once again urge the DNC to support a climate debate.
For this meeting, the Sunrise Movement apparently has the support of over 100 members of the DNC, who will be able to vote for the resolution.
Joining others appalled at the DNC resolutions committee, former Vice President Al Gore declared, “The Democratic National Committee’s decision to sabotage a climate debate is extremely disappointing. Voters all over the U.S. are demanding we focus on the biggest threat to our nation and humanity’s future and prioritize solving the climate crisis instead of continuing business as usual.”
While certain influential DNC members fixate on process and pit groups against those who want a substantive policy debate on climate change, Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is burning. There are glaciers in Greenland that are rapidly melting. Severe heat waves have occurred as far north as the Arctic Circle.
President Donald Trump’s administration continues to fundamentally transform the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into an institution that can shield polluters from accountability and regulation.
Several presidential candidates have proposed their own climate plans. Voters would benefit from hearing the candidates discuss why they support certain ideas but oppose certain proposals. However, the DNC apparently fears a climate debate might push centrist liberal candidates to endorse radical solutions that would benefit humanity but create liabilities Republicans could seize upon for attacks during the general election.
So, at least for now, the world will keep burning and melting as the DNC timidly cowers in the face of climate change deniers and fossil fuel interests that currently hold the U.S. government captive.