Jay Inslee Announces He's Running for President

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is the latest candidate to join the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. In his announcement video, he says: "I'm running for president because I'm the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's number one priority."

The video makes clear that climate change is indeed his number one priority. Indeed, it is his only priority. He mentions no other issues at all during the announcement.

In a profile published yesterday at the New Yorker, he told Benjamin Wallace-Wells that other candidates have their priorities screwed up: "It made no sense, he said, for Democratic Presidential candidates to insist that we were in an existential crisis and then make addressing it their fourth priority."

I'm not sure that any of the other Democrats currently in the race have set climate change as "their fourth priority," as much as one urgent priority among many. Presumably, Inslee would take issue with that as well.

Which I find quite interesting. (Cough.) A diverse field of qualified candidates with broad policy agendas opens the primary. Then come white dudes who are singularly focused on one issue: Bernie Sanders says the only thing that matters is the economy. Jay Inslee says the only thing that matters is climate change. They are certain that their issue is the only issue that matters — but it all matters, and the candidates already running know that. Yet now they are being trashed by cishet white dudes who imply they're not strong enough candidates because they can multitask.

Suffice it to say, I find climate change an extremely urgent issue. I also find healthcare access an extremely urgent issue. I also find liveable wages an extremely urgent issue. I also find criminal justice reform an extremely urgent issue. And many other issues — every one of which are life and death issues.

From Inslee's perspective, nothing else matters if we're all going to die from climate change in 50 years. But climate change doesn't matter to a woman who can't terminate a pregnancy that will kill her or a Black teenager who's just been shot by police or a child separated from her parents and slowly dying of exposure in ICE custody.

This is the problem with trickle-down policy that presumes the issue that stands to affect the most people is necessarily the most urgent. Sometimes, it's actually not.

It all matters. We have to be capable of seeing and addressing multiple needs at the same time.

Further: Climate change is a particularly curious subject for a single-issue candidacy, because it's not something the U.S. president can "defeat" (to use Inslee's word) on his or her own. It's an international issue that will require international cooperation on an international strategy.

And unless a president has a Democratically controlled House and Senate, s/he's not even getting anything done in the U.S., either, because the Republican Party has long been obstructionist on climate change initiatives.

Which is to say nothing of the influence of special interests. In the Washington Post's piece on Inslee's announcement, this is buried in the second paragraph from the bottom: "And despite his calls for drastic action to combat climate change, Inslee's most ambitious climate change initiative — the institution of a tax on carbon emissions — was voted down in the state's elections last November, thanks in part to massive opposition spending from oil companies."

Unless Inslee is fixing to "defeat" climate change by executive fiat (in which case, he's running to be a one-issue dictator), he's facing some real problems in terms of being able to deliver on his single issue.

I'm looking forward to hearing how he plans to overcome those challenges.

I'm not looking forward to any further implication that other candidates don't care about climate change if they also care about other issues facing Americans.

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