Update: The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to strike down a resolution that would have allowed for a multi-candidate climate forum.
“Tom Perez just killed the #ClimateDebate,” the youth-led Sunrise Movement said on its Facebook page, referring to the DNC chair.
Resolution 4 was seen as a compromise from a resolution calling for a presidential primary climate debate, as groups including Sunrise had demanded. That resolution was voted down Thursday at the San Francisco meeting by the DNC’s Resolutions Committee, prompting outrage. Sunrise claimed a “partial victory” when Resolution 4, which would have allowed for a “multi-candidate issue-specific forum with the candidates appearing on the same state, engaging one another in discussion,” passed Thursday.
“We passed a resolution supporting this multi-candidate discussion and party leaders overturned it,” said DNC voting member James J. Zogby in a statement Saturday. “The Democratic Party is supposed to be bottom up, not top down.”
Progressive strategist Dante Atkins shared results of Saturday’s vote on Twitter, and opined that the decision was a mistake for the party and Perez.
The vote was met with sharp criticism from a coalition of environmental and progressive organizations that led a pressure campaign on the DNC to hold a debate singularly-focused on the climate crisis.
In a joint statement, the coalition—which includes CREDO Action, Sunrise Movement, and Climate Hawks Vote—accused Perez of “undermining the DNC’s own system and bypassing the will of the more than half a million grassroots activists, more than 100 DNC members in San Francisco, and most of the Democratic presidential candidates.”
“There are many DNC members from across the country who believe in listening to the grassroots and engaging in a transparent, democratic process,” the coalition said. “But Tom Perez made it clear today that he is not one of them.”
“Our entire future is at stake, but Tom Perez just swept aside the climate crisis for someone else to solve,” the joint statement continued. “That isn’t leadership. That isn’t normal order. That isn’t what it means to be a Democrat.”
Evan Weber, Sunrise’s political director, suggested it was bad political strategy.
“The Democratic Party needs the energy and motivation of young people to win in 2020,” he said. “The energy around this issue has been incredibly clear, yet Tom Perez keeps shooting the party in the foot by rejecting that energy and turning it away.”
“Without hundreds of thousands of people raising their voices, we never would have gotten the town halls on and CNN and MSNBC,” Weber’s statement continued. “This is the kind of energy we need from young people to win in 2020.”
Earlier: As activists sustain pressure on the DNC Saturday to vote on favor of a climate debate, advocacy group Progressive Democrats of America said that three presidential candidates added their names to an open letter to the committee demanding such a single-focused debate.
Welcoming the signatures from Tom Steyer, Tulsi Gabbard, and Marianne Williamson, PDA executive director Alan Minsky said, “The Democratic Party needs to show it is ready to respond to the existential climate threat by delivering the American people a televised climate debate.”
Tom Weis, climate advisor to PDA, suggested that if the DNC doesn’t vote in favor of a resolution to hold a climate debate—which it has the chance to do on Saturday— it would defy the party’s own governing platform.
“How are Democrats going to mobilize America ‘on a scale not seen since World War II’ to combat the ‘global climate emergency,’ as the Democratic Party Platform asserts, if they won’t even hold a climate emergency debate?” asked Weis. “The world is on fire and Democrats need to sound the alarm.”
The DNC is currently holding its summer meeting in San Francisco, and, as of this writing, is debating the resolution.
On Thursday, climate activists were outraged after the organization’s Resolutions Committee voted down a resolution that called for a climate-focused debate among 2020 presidential primary candidates.
Members of the Sunrise Movement interrupted that meeting, shouting, “Which side are you on?”
Sunrise’s call is backed by Brianna Westbrook, vice chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party. “Our survival is at stake. It’s time for the political and media establishment to act like it,” Westbrook wrote Friday in a tweet, which pointed to a Sunrise petition to the Democratic National Committee to hold a climate debate.