Dem Debate Meant Address Issues for Black Voters Makes No Mention of Environmental Justice

Democrats raise their hands attempting to speak in chaotic Democratic Debate (via screenshot)

Image: Mediaite

Last night was the second Democratic primary debate that made no mention of climate change. Despite the fact that the debate took place in Charleston, SC and was co-hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, the moderators asked no questions about environmental justice or the fact that South Carolina’s rising seas disproportionately affect poorer, black communities.

Certainly candidates like Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer brought up the climate crisis when they were answering other questions, but moderators steered clear of any specific questions pertaining to climate change or the environment. This was disappointing for many reasons, one of them being that veteran CBS correspondent Bill Whitaker was one of the journalists asking questions last night and he’s previously covered the importance of climate action–why wasn’t he the one to ask the candidates how they’ll handle climate injustice?

Noise Noise Noise: Candidates squabbled about who made offhand comments supporting communist regimes, whose appeal is most folksy to moderate voters and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg even brought in a reference to naked cowboys (which no one needed but got anyway). In retrospect, this was all wasted time that could have been spent talking about the very real threats of sea-level rise and wildfires that face states like South Carolina and the upcoming Super Tuesday electoral prize of California.

The moderators also did very little to stop these squabbles and to manage time so that perhaps, a question on the climate crisis could have been asked. AOC put it best,

Why This Matters: In the context of South Carolina, it was a huge missed opportunity not to have the first robust candidate discussion on environmental justice issues days before the state’s primary election. South Carolina is ground zero for how climate change is affecting black communities–such as the Gullah whose land is being swallowed by the ocean. Additionally, it’s a state where a Republican incumbent lost his seat in 2018 to a Democrat in part due to his support for offshore drilling. We wrote a Bright Ideas piece this past weekend about why climate issues matter so much in South Carolina and how they’re not being addressed by candidates or the media, last night’s debate just further proves our point. For a debate that was supposed to broach issues prioritized by black voters, it failed to prioritize an important one.

Secondly, this is the last debate California voters will watch before casting their ballots next week. California is a state where primary voters have called climate change their top priority and last night’s debate was a weak showing of which candidates will be most bold on climate action.

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