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President Jay Inslee Will Put Solar Panels On White House, Capitol, Your Mom
He's got nerdmentum!
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today became the four billionth candidate to announce he's running for the Democratic nomination in 2020, although he joins the field with one distinction: He's actually the first governor to jump into the race. Heck, there's more mayors running than governors so far. Inslee positions himself as the candidate who'll fight climate change, and released a video that almost comically emphasizes the point. In the first 15 seconds, it hits us with a montage of Inslee saying variations on "We have got to stop global warming" and pounding on "climate change" over and over -- taken in isolation, it could almost look like a clip from an opposition ad complaining Inslee's too single-minded. But that's pretty much his point, as he said in a New Yorker profile published yesterday. It just doesn't make sense for Dems to say climate change is an existential threat but not center their campaigns on fighting it.
Yr Wonkette has watched a whole lot of campaign announcement videos this year. Inslee's is definitely one of them , but it's the first we've come across where the campaign has set it to not allow embedding. So we will try to recreate that opening montage through the magic of screenshots, which are like a video with a really slow frame rate. The ad kicks off a bit hokily, with Earnest Young Voter asking what Inslee has to say about climate. And then we get a quick recap (and trade) of Inslee's career as a congressman and governor, aging incrementally as the climate has gotten worser.
Now that we've watched it a few times, we're starting to think it's actually pretty effective, particularly as the montage ends and the ad focuses in on Inslee in the aftermath of a forest fire, framed through the window of a burnt out SUV, with a line he's already been using in speeches and interviews: "We're the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we're the last who can do something about it." It works!
For a far better introduction to the candidate, though, we'd suggest that New Yorker profile by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, which takes a bit more time to give you a sense of who this guy is. He is, in short, the sort of guy whose
thoughts emerge in lists ("No. 4 is . . .") and his mind moves toward details [...] The thought of Iowa made Inslee turn not to county dinners but to wind turbines. Had I heard there was a new generation of turbines coming? "They're humongous ," he said, with appreciation. "Three hundred feet long."
If he sounds like Al Gore only not made entirely of wood, that's pretty close. We like the bit where he refers to having raised "three feral boys." On climate, Inslee aims for a rhetorical target in the sweet spot between can-do technocratic optimism and the terrifying Portents O' Doom that the scientific community keeps throwing at us, noting that just as we're approaching a tipping point that could mean we're headed toward disaster, we're also finally waking up as a culture to what needs to be done:
Inslee's view is that the new urgency about climate policy was created by the "visual drama" of real events, in people's lives, and on local news. "The reason is Paradise, California, burned down," he said. "And Houston flooded with unprecedented rain and Miami is underwater and Iowa farmers can't get their crops in because of precipitation events and Oprah's house has been swamped by mudslides." [...] "This is basically a race," Inslee said. "That's all it is. Who's going to win, us or climate change?"
Asked what Democrats could have done to make their case more urgently, earlier, Inslee admits it's been frustrating, but notes he'd recently turned up a brochure emphasizing carbon reduction, from his first campaign for Congress in 1992 (he then lost in 1994 after voting for the assault weapons ban, then returned to Congress from 1999 to 2012, when he ran for governor). But yes, the sense of lost opportunity is unavoidable. Wallace-Wells notes, "humans have done more to warm the planet since his first election to Congress than in all the years before," and Jesus, doesn't that give you pause?
And this is where Inslee made us fall in love with him, just a little. Noting that Democrats have been pounding on climate but thwarted for decades by Big Fossil Fuel, Inslee points out we'd be in a different place today were it not for the 2001-2008 presidency of an oil guy, and how we ended up with him:
I think we could have taken Ralph Nader out on a ship before he could file for President. And set the ship adrift. And allowed him to be fed and healthy before the filing deadline. That would have been the most significant thing where we missed our opportunity. I mean, really! You think about how different the world could have been for three hundred and fifty votes that Ralph Nader took out of Al Gore's pocket. Every time I think about that it just drives me nuts.
You, me, and a whole lot of people living on coastlines, Jay. Inslee has had his own setbacks on trying to pass climate legislation, too: He proposed a small carbon tax for Washington, but it was defeated first in the state lege, and then a second time as a voter initiative -- after a hugely expensive negative ad campaign by energy interests. But looking to nudge carbon emissions down with disincentives like a carbon tax was never enough, Inslee says; he is excited about the prospects of the Green New Deal, because it would finally restructure the entire economy around remaking energy and creating jobs in the process.
There was no silver bullet, he explained; it was more like "silver buckshot." Carbon pricing, through cap-and-trade or a tax, might be a theoretically elegant mechanism, but, Inslee said, the money to invest in green industries and technologies could come from anywhere, including a reversal of the Trump tax cuts [...] "I could give you twenty-four policies right now," he said, which made me notice, fleetingly, the exactness of that number.
Republicans have lately taken to deriding the Green New Deal as gassy and fantastical. They have forgotten about the liberals, who will soon be arriving with their tax offsets and their staggered phase-in calendars and their twenty-four-point plans. "The scale of this is appropriate to think about," Inslee said, with relish. "We do have to build an economy that is not based in fossil fuels. Ithas to be the organizing principle of the federal government."
And that right there is why Inslee's running. Sure, nobody's heard of him outside the Northwest. But the guy's on a mission to literally save the world, or at least the life on it that depends on not being fried. And by yelling loudest about climate, he hopes to make the other candidates start making it a bigger part of their campaigns, too.
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