In a small room at Hudson Yards, a ritzy, new Manhattan retail and housing complex, 10 Democratic candidates for president took turns Sept. 4 presenting their programs on the climate crisis. Each candidate was questioned separately by CNN moderators and audience members for 40 minutes in a televised seven-hour “Climate Town Hall.” The event was not an official campaign debate.
Only a preselected audience was allowed entry into the venue, in a complex designed and built to protect the wealthy from climate-related havoc and deemed an example of “eco-apartheid.” (Democracy Now, Sept. 5)
This event followed the Aug. 31 vote by the Democratic National Committee not to hold a candidates’ debate specifically on climate. A single-issue debate, first proposed by candidate and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (who has since dropped out) was rejected by DNC Chairman Tom Perez. “I concluded the DNC could not allow individual candidates to dictate the terms of debates or limit the topics discussed,” Perez stated June 11. (medium.com)
Youth climate justice activists, including leaders of the Sunrise Movement, took up the demand for a climate debate, plugging it during a mass march outside the July 30-31 debates in Detroit. Most of the candidates voiced support.
But over two-thirds of DNC delegates voted not to hold a climate debate, permitting candidate participation only in forums such as the CNN-controlled Town Hall.
What are the Democrats so afraid of? Are they afraid of the emerging, comparatively progressive grouping inside their own party? Are they afraid of a Green New Deal — even though, like Roosevelt’s New Deal, the proposed GND leaves capitalist exploitation in place? Are their well-heeled campaign donors putting the screws on them?
Perhaps they feared embarrassing Joe Biden. The former vice president, who pledged not to take money from the fossil fuel industry, was confronted by a Town Hall audience member about an upcoming Biden fundraiser, hosted by Andrew Goldman of natural gas company Liquid LNG. Biden immediately became defensive, insisting the company founder was not currently an executive of the corporation.
Does that make a difference? Goldman has not disassociated himself from that company or the harm it helped cause. How can you say you are for climate justice and then turn around and hobnob with a fossil-industry bigwig?
‘Climate pricing’ a safe ‘solution’ — for capitalism
Despite the socialist baiting by Trump and his ilk, none of the 10 Democratic candidates participating in the climate forum want to get rid of capitalism. This includes Bernie Sanders. Calling for deprivatizing utility companies is as far as he’ll go — and that’s farther than any other candidate.
Although she said she would hold corporations accountable, Elizabeth Warren balked when an audience member asked if she would challenge capitalism. Most of the candidates did not support an all-out ban on fracking. Although natural gas is touted as a clean alternative to petroleum and coal, the fracking process, through the release of methane gas, actually contributes to global warming.
While Sanders proposes a $16 trillion version of the Green New Deal, front-runner Biden would spend only a little over a tenth of that to address the climate crisis.
Nine of the ten called for “climate pricing,” formulas including “cap-and-trade” that charge companies a “price” based on carbon emissions. The World Bank has a web site promoting carbon pricing!
There are two carbon-pricing bills in Congress now. One is a Republican-sponsored bill, which has the backing of Shell, Exxon-Mobil and other Big Oil companies. The other, bipartisan bill comes with a higher emissions price tag — but eliminates Environmental Protection Agency oversight for 10 years.
There is no proof that these formulas work to cut emissions. The tax could be treated as merely a cost of doing business — a cost that will, if possible, be passed on to the consumer. Isn’t that how a typical capitalist handles fines when they violate workplace safety laws and environmental regulations? While doing nothing at all to remedy the underlying problem.
Granted, even the weakest Democratic platform contrasts with that of climate-denying, fascistic Trump. Many of the new climate action organizations are making voter registration a priority, specifically to vote for the most climate-friendly candidate in the Democratic primary. Then they will work “to beat Trump” no matter what.
But both the Democratic and Republican parties are capitalist parties. The most important thing young climate radicals can do is to stay in the streets. Strike, march, rally, sit-in, occupy, do whatever is necessary — to “shut it down” — to halt the climate catastrophe!