NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, May 31st, 2019

Senators call on NBC to make climate justice the focus of the first presidential debate

Three Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Sen­a­tors have released a let­ter call­ing on NBC News to make cli­mate jus­tice the focus of the first pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry debate.

Sens. Bri­an Schatz (D‑HI), Shel­don White­house (D‑RI) and Mar­tin Hein­rich (D‑NM) pre­sent­ed NBC’s News Chair­man, Andy Lack, with two strong argu­ments for their rec­om­men­da­tions: first­ly, polling among young vot­ers shows their huge con­cern about the issue, and sec­ond­ly, the impacts of cli­mate change are being felt across the coun­try in the same way that health­care and eco­nom­ic issues are.

“Accord­ing to a recent nation­al poll, near­ly all Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers – 96 per­cent – named cli­mate change as a top issue when choos­ing a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for 2020. In a poll of young vot­ers, a major­i­ty of both Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats view cli­mate change as a prob­lem, includ­ing a clear major­i­ty of Repub­li­cans and 82 per­cent of Democ­rats. They are look­ing for a can­di­date who will take mean­ing­ful action, and cur­rent­ly 73 per­cent of young vot­ers dis­ap­prove of the approach Don­ald Trump has tak­en on cli­mate change,” the let­ter says.

“This should not be sur­pris­ing,” the Sen­a­tors add.

“The impacts of cli­mate change are hap­pen­ing now — from wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia, to flood­ing in the Mid­west, to sea lev­el rise on the coasts. It is an issue that is impact­ing people’s dai­ly lives and endan­ger­ing their future safe­ty and pros­per­i­ty. It is as real as their con­cerns about health care and the econ­o­my, and peo­ple deserve to hear how their poten­tial can­di­dates will address this problem.”

These three sen­a­tors are only the lat­est in a series of actors to call for a cli­mate focused debate to show vot­ers where all the can­di­dates stand on the issue.

In the mid­dle of last month, Washington’s gov­er­nor Jay Inslee (who is run­ning on an entire­ly cli­mate-focused plat­form) called for a cli­mate focused debate.

In an email to his sup­port­ers, Inslee wrote:

“This can’t be a one-off ques­tion where can­di­dates get to give a sound­bite and move on: Cli­mate [jus­tice] is at the heart of every issue that mat­ters to vot­ers, and vot­ers deserve to hear what 2020 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates plan to do about it.”

Kirsten Gilli­brand – the junior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor from New York who is also run­ning for pres­i­dent – endorsed Inslee’s call, com­par­ing the cli­mate chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s “moon­shot” in the 1960s.

As well as elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives, many activists are call­ing for the Democ­rats to tell vot­ers about their plans for address­ing and revers­ing cli­mate damage.

Students on strike for the climate

Youth hold­ing signs at the School Strike on Fri­day at the Nation­al Mall in sup­port of tak­ing action to reverse cli­mate dam­age (Pho­to: Earth and Main, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

The Sun­rise Move­ment – a youth-led polit­i­cal move­ment that gained nation­al atten­tion when activists protest­ed out­side Demo­c­ra­t­ic House Leader Nan­cy Pelosi’s office – has called for mas­sive youth mobi­liza­tion in Detroit at the end of July to coin­cide with the sec­ond Demo­c­ra­t­ic debate.

The Sun­rise Move­ment has three demands for pres­i­den­tial candidates:

  • that they sign the no fos­sil fuel mon­ey pledge;
  • that they make the Green New Deal a day-one pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ty if elected;
  • and last­ly that they all com­mit to a pres­i­den­tial debate on cli­mate justice.

As more and more Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates sign onto the Green New Deal or ver­sions there­of, and as the Par­ty lead­er­ship has become increas­ing­ly assertive about the man­age­ment of their debates (they recent­ly reject­ed Fox’s bid to host a debate, decid­ing that the far-right net­work couldn’t be trust­ed), it seems like a safe bet that we will be see­ing the over 20 can­di­dates set out their vision for the USA’s reac­tion to the glob­al issue of cli­mate change.

The first Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial debate will be held in Mia­mi over two nights, June 26th and 27th. On both nights the debate will start at 9 PM East­ern and can be viewed for free on, and Telemundo’s online services.

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