Governor Jay Inslee of Washington is sticking to his promise of making battling climate change the centerpiece of his campaign for President. The Washington Post followed him on the campaign trail talking to voters in the communities in California devastated by wildfires last fall. In those communities, Governor Inslee’s message of taking on the powerful interests and shaking up things in Washington to get real action on climate change resonated. And, according to The Post, Inslee’s got an answer to the Republican charge that fighting climate change is socialism, saying ‘“A lot of these Republican politicians, if their house was on fire and the community made a bucket brigade to put it out, would say, ‘That’s socialist,’ ” Inslee said. “They’ve just got to quit worrying about their ideology and start worrying about their grandchildren a little bit more.”’
Inslee also railed against the filibuster as a vestige of the antebellum era and an unworkable impediment to getting climate change legislation through the Congress. He appeared on MSNBC on Monday night (you can watch the segment above) and argued that “the filibuster will stop us from saving the planet.” In California, Inslee likened climate change to World War II, saying “It’s like December 8, 1941, the morning after Pearl Harbor. Nobody accused Franklin Roosevelt of being a single-issue president, because that was the threat. And this threat of climate change threatens everything we hold dear.”
But Governor Inslee may have some competition — Grist called Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, the stealth climate candidate in the 2020 Presidential race. Grist reports that “Buttigieg has some tips for changing the way we talk about climate change. ‘Often people picture the sort of thing you see on the B-roll on cable news – images of ice shelves in the Antarctic and polar bears,’ Buttigieg said. ‘I think what we need is images of families in the U.S.'” Buttigieg, a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Afghanistan, also alluded to World War II in his endorsement of mounting a large government effort to fight climate change, saying “Unlike something like the Great Depression or World War II, this time we see it coming. Shame on us if we don’t find a convincing solution and act with great urgency and national unity.”
Why This Matters: Both Governor Inslee and Mayor Buttigieg seem to have mastered the art of talking about climate change in ways that are both substantive and inspirational. As Mayor Pete well understood, climate change is about people and their health, safety, and prosperity, not simply about saving polar bears. Similarly, Inslee’s “house on fire” metaphor to call out the Republicans drove the message home in a way that was personal to the people who had lost their homes to fire, but also to the rest of the country trying to understand why pasting the socialist label on government action to address climate change is so misleading. So there are now not one, but two climate change candidates in the Presidential race, which is great news for the Democratic party. We would love to see Mayor Pete square off in a VP debate against his fellow Hoosier, Vice President Pence.