Opinion: Democrats need a new champion on climate action

Jay Inslee is out of the presidential race, but his focus on the climate crisis should be adopted party-wide.


Shivansh Ahuja

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA on Saturday, August 10, 2019.

Elijah Helton, Opinions Editor

If you know me, you know that I’m only half-joking when I say I’m crestfallen about Jay Inslee ending his presidential run. The governor of Washington made fighting climate change the center of his campaign, or as he put it, “Climate change is every issue.”

For a tree-hugging, enviro-maniac such as me, Inslee’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination represented desire and hope for real action.

He wasn’t just regurgitating the decades-old line about the rise in global temperatures being the “greatest challenge of our time” or whatever; Inslee really meant it when he said he wanted to make his presidency first and foremost about addressing, fighting, and even defeating climate change. (I think actually “defeating” climate change isn’t really possible, given where we are politically and ecologically, but I guess one needs to sound hopeful when trying to become the U.S. president.)

The point is that Inslee was serious about climate change to a degree we haven’t seen from a mainstream presidential candidate. He’s forced the issue onto other White House hopefuls who’d rather talk about something else. Even though we won’t have a President Inslee, the Democratic Party will have a nominee whose environmental policy isn’t a footnote of the platform.

Upon Inslee’s announcement that he was concluding his campaign, my Twitter feed was flooded with 2020 candidates praising the governor for championing the issue and even thanking him for his contributions to the public discourse. Don’t expect that sort of illustrious sendoff to happen when any other long-shot candidate drops out. Even though he never was able to poll higher than a couple percentage points, Inslee left his mark on this primary cycle.

Whoever the Democrats nominate in 2020, that nominee must make solving the climate crisis the primary and absolute goal of a potential presidency.”

But now there’s a decision to be made. There needs to be a new champion for climate action.

It looks like the owner of that crown might be Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The Woman with a Plan has already aligned herself with Inslee, who has announced his re-election bid to keep his current job. She held the largest rally of her campaign in Seattle, which opened with praise for the governor.

Given Warren’s penchant for big, bold government action, her being the next big advocate in the fight against climate change makes sense. While Warren definitely has a better chance at getting nominated and elected, it’s very likely that someone else will challenge President Trump and his blatantly anti-climate policies.

All of this to say that whoever the Democrats nominate in 2020, that nominee must make solving the climate crisis the primary and absolute goal of a potential presidency. (I would say that’s true for any president regardless of party, but the Republican reluctance on climate action is something for another time.)

We’re already tardy on taking action to reduce carbon emission, develop sequestration technology, adapt agricultural practices, and the litany of other projects and policies required to adequately address the environmental emergency in which we find ourselves.

I don’t care if it’s a boring moderate or a firebrand radical — anyone who thinks highly enough of their self to run for president must also be up to the task of leading the climate battle.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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