The Democratic National Committee voted over the weekend not to hold a climate debate. Actually, it’s worse than that: they voted not to allow candidates to participate in such a debate. The move signaled that the party leadership is not serious about the most urgent matter facing humanity, and is out of touch with its own grassroots base, which is open to left ideas and increasingly worried about the burning planet.
Bay Area journalist Christopher Cook described the scene at the DNC meeting in a report for 48 Hills, an independent local paper: while the leadership killed the debate and gave lip service to the issue, young activists chanted “We Can’t Wait” and “The Whole World Is Watching.”
The Sunrise Movement and other youth climate groups like US Youth Climate Strike had been pushing for the climate debate. The New Republic and other organizations had planned one earlier this summer, but don’t get me started on the ridiculous plutocratic, pearl-clutching imbroglio that sunk that event (actually, I wrote about it here on this website).
While tech money is important, the biggest donors to the DNC in the 2020 cycle are overwhelmingly financial companies, whether hedge funds, private equity, or more traditional investment management. Obviously, most of these firms want to be able to continue to invest in fossil fuels as well as in companies looting the Amazon. Such companies are run by — and depend on the continued existence of — the very rich, our planet’s biggest liability. (Not only do they create immense pollution through private jets and multiple homes, the rich also support such lifestyles through immensely planet-ravaging investments.) The finance class does not want to hear plain talk about solutions to climate change; in many cases, they are getting rich from destroying the planet and do not wish to stop doing this. That’s probably why DNC head Tom Perez called the idea of a climate debate “dangerous.”
The DNC also seems to be trying to avoid two likely outcomes of a climate debate: Joe Biden looking bad and Bernie Sanders looking good.
Besides being a centrist unable to seriously tackle this problem, Biden is an addled fool who can’t intellectually endure sustained questioning on any topic (please note that the DNC ruled out any single-issue debates), so it’s hard to imagine that a climate debate would go well for him.
The climate debate would, on the other hand, be a huge boon to the 1 percent’s least favorite Democratic candidate. Bernie Sanders is the candidate with the strongest climate plan, supporting the Green New Deal and the elimination of fossil fuel use by 2050 (the latter, by the way, sounds big but is in line with targets set by many European governments). Sanders’s plan declares climate change a national emergency and lays out massive investment in renewable energies, generating some 20 million jobs. He also envisions $200 billion in aid to poor countries coping with the effects of climate change, the kind of solidarity and assistance that could greatly improve the tone of geopolitical climate negotiations.
The candidates are responding better than might be expected — that is, with appropriate outrage. Former garage band rocker (and current presidential candidate) Beto O’Rourke called the DNC’s decision “as baffling as it is alarming.”
The DNC has shown what it represents: plutocratic interests and their deep commitment to human extinction. Even a lightweight Ivy League skateposer like Beto has a better sense of where the political culture is headed than the DNC does. Greta Thunberg arrived yesterday in New York City after crossing the Atlantic in a small, janky-looking zero-carbon boat from Europe. She and the many other people around the world fighting capitalism and the fossil fuel industry are our best hope — not only for the future, but for the present.