Photo by binaryoptionsbinaires via flickr
The first of three debates between presidential candidates demonstrated just how far climate change is from the minds of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. During the debate, neither candidate mentioned it or the impact it is having on our infrastructure, economy, weather or health. At one point, however, Mr. Romney berated President Obama for investing in green energy and spoke passionately about his loyalty to coal.
It is worth noting that none of the questions asked by moderator, Jim Lehrer, focused on climate change. Thousands signed petitions asking Mr. Lehrer to include the most pressing issue of our time, and it is clear that he made the conscious choice to ignore the requests of the American people. Climate change is not a new topic for presidential candidates, either. In the debates of 2000 and 2008, candidates were asked specific questions regarding climate change and energy, and they answered. The people knew where they stood before casting their votes. After the first debate in 2012, we are left wondering whether President Obama would create green jobs or if Mr. Romney would continue to deregulate the coal and gas industries.
There are two presidential candidates that will discuss climate change and energy issues openly and honestly, however. The Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson participated in the presidential debate in real time thanks to Democracy Now!’s “Expanding the Debate.” While President Obama and Mr. Romney debated on national networks, Democracy Now! host, Amy Goodman, moderated a debate in Real Time that included Ms. Stein and Mr. Anderson. The candidates answered the same questions the Mr. Lehrer posed to the Democractic and Republican candidates, and they also provided closing statements.
Both candidates were shocked, dismayed, and disappointed that their mainstream counterparts failed to make concerted efforts to include environmental concerns in their answers. In contrast, Ms. Stein and Mr. Anderson touched upon these topics several times. Ms. Stein’s campaign platform, in fact, is centered around the Green New Deal, which aims to reduce the effects of climate change, increase regulation on polluting industry, end hydraulic fracturing, and create millions of green jobs. Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson mentioned the complimentary issues of economic and environmental justice, and he says that he is fighting for both.
The expanded debate format had its limitations. For instance, Ms. Goodman actually did an effective job as moderator and limited the candidates time to answer, and unlike Mr. Romney and President Obama, the third party candidates respected the format. I say that in jest, but what was truly frustrating was that Mr. Anderson and Ms. Stein both seemed to be debating the mainstream candidates and not each other. It was as if they were on the same ticket and were tag-teaming Mr. Romeny and President Obama, were simply trying to demonstrate the contrast between the mainstream and third parties.
My hope is that Democracy Now! holds two more expanded debates with these candidates and that Mr. Anderson and Ms. Stein participate, ready to shed light on the differences between all parties – Democrat, Republican, Justice, and Green.
If you did not catch the expanded debate, you can see it in full, here, or the main parts below: