Democrats have shut the door to a presidential debate focused on climate change.
The proposal dominated the party’s convention this week in San Francisco and pitted party officials who oppose single-issue debates against activists, who see climate change as an existential threat that deserves special attention heading into the 2020 election.
On Thursday, the proposal failed in the Democratic National Committee’s resolutions committee, and on Saturday the DNC leadership delivered a final “no” vote.
DNC Chair Tom Perez, who opposed the proposal, said the committee has received “dozens” of requests for single-issue debates, all on “compelling issues,” and that it would be a mistake to “change the rules in the middle of the process.”
He also pointed out that the party has allowed candidates to appear at single-issue forums and town halls, and that many candidates will participate in a series of climate change forums on CNN and MSNBC this fall.
But a number of candidates, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, have endorsed the idea.
“This decision is as baffling as it is alarming. Our planet is burning— the least we can do as a party is debate what to do about it,” O’Rourke said on Twitter following the vote.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made climate change the central issue of his campaign and proposed the idea of the debate in the first place, dropped out of the race this week.
Meanwhile, activists who argued that the singular threat posed by climate change set it apart from other issues denounced the DNC’s decision.
“This is downright irresponsible. Climate change is an emergency, but Tom Perez isn’t acting like it,” said Sofie Karasek, a spokesperson with Sunrise Movement, a youth-led environmental group. “We have just over ten years to completely transform our economy to avert catastrophe, but instead of being the adult in the room, Tom Perez is throwing procedural temper tantrums.”