Friday morning Jay Inslee announced his run for president of the world.
As the Washington governor's slick (and appropriately cloudy!) announcement video suggests, he's running on one issue and one issue only: climate change. He drops the phrase no fewer than 11 times in one minute, barking out the final sentences of his mission statement like a football coach for the hometown team: "I’m Jay Inslee and I’m running for president because I’m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority. We can do this. Join our movement. This is our moment."
Though early surveys show Inslee polling at 0 percent in a crowded Democratic field, there are good reasons to take his candidacy seriously, and there are even better reasons to tell everyone that you're voting Jay Inslee for president in 2020—at least for the next year or so.
Every other Democratic contender is trying to recreate the success of 2018 in 2020 by running on health care and running against Trump. The way it’s looking right now, either Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Joe Biden—if he gets in—is going to win the nomination.
But Inslee is promising to run only on climate change, which is inarguably the largest problem facing the entire world. We’re living in the opening sequence of a real-life ecological disaster film, and it’s embarrassing that our melting, burning, flooding, rented earth is not front-page news every day.
Every other candidate is going to be talking about Medicare for All, and that’s great. But we need someone in the race who hears the phrase Medicare for All, nods in approval, and then says, “Fuck Medicare for All. By the time we implement universal health care, we’ll be stabbing each other over barrels of water in the deserts of Missouri unless we do something major to combat climate change. We’re ten years away from Mad Max: Fury Road, and these jokers are up here trying to make a bank shot for a public option. Get out of here. What we need to do is patch up the Earth while dealing with everything else at the same time, and I'm the guy to do it."
Of course, he’s not going to say it like that. He’ll say something like, “Medicare for All? You know what could really use some care? The ice caps. And that’s why I’m running for president.”
And that’s fine. At least he’s saying it. At least he’ll be that guy. Or, at least, he’s promising to be.
Once Jay inevitably drops out and his potential billionaire backer, Tom Steyer, throws his super PAC money behind the eventual nominee, then we can start having the serious conversations about whether we want to elect a cop, a grandad, a handsy grandad, or Elizabeth Warren.
Until then, we owe it to ourselves to force national media outlets only to talk about the dire effects of climate change and the many different solutions that Jay Inslee and other lawmakers are proposing to try to address it. Otherwise, we’re going to get two years of bullshit horserace coverage, plus a bunch of internet outrage about how stupid the horserace coverage is, all while the earth is melting beneath our feet and the Mariana Trench shrimp are choking to death on plastic.
I know Inslee isn’t exactly the best speaker for the trees. He’s corny, he couldn’t beat big oil in the bid to pass a carbon fee initiative in Washington, his health care proposal might go belly up in the legislature (and it probably should), and his emphasis on investments over regulation is concerning.
Plus, the four-point "Climate Mission" he's rolling out with his candidacy reads like a weak tea Green New Deal. Rather than demanding we transition to 100 percent renewables and clean energy in 10 years, he wants to "accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy and net-zero greenhouse gas pollution," emphasis mine. He wants to create "millions of good-paying jobs over the next 10 years," and promises to "work with front-line, low-income, and indigenous communities and communities of color" to ensure a just transition, which is good. But the only stick he offers is "end[ing] billions in fossil fuel subsidies," which doesn't sound aggressive enough to fund this vision.
But he does have the gumption to run as a one-issue candidate on the only issue that matters.
And maybe that's actually a winning strategy. After all, bold climate change solutions have broad support. The Green New Deal polls in the 80s and 90s. Conservationist conservatives exist. Whatever the case, he's sure to make a fine Secretary of the Interior under President Joe Kamala Biden Harris.
But if a majority of Democrats agree that climate change is the biggest threat to the country, and yet the majority of us refuse to seriously consider the guy who wants to prioritize it, then maybe we deserve to melt.