OPINION: We didn't deserve Jay Inslee's campaign


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to press after the second Democratic primary debate July 31 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. Tribune News Service

Lt. James Gordon said in the film “The Dark Knight” that Batman was, “the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one [they] need right now.” 

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) proved to be the opposite. His presidential campaign was what America needed right now, but honestly did not deserve. He suspended his campaign via "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Aug. 21 after consistently lackluster polling.

Inslee’s campaign primarily centered around one issue: climate change. In fact, his campaign’s logo even included an artistic hemisphere meant to represent Earth. On paper, his campaign should have clicked with many voters. In fact, a CBS News Poll from late July found that 78% of early Democratic primary voters listed climate change as a “very important” issue for them. This was second only to healthcare, arguably the biggest issue in the 2018 midterm elections.

This makes sense. The world has suffered greatly from the effects of climate change caused by human activity. Many in China are forced to wear masks due to rampant pollution. There is more carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere than in any point in human history. Indonesia even has to move its capital city because the current one is sinking due to rapidly rising sea levels. The Earth weeps as humanity destroys it day by day.

Inslee’s plans tackled the climate crisis head on. This included ending all direct government financial support to all fossil fuel industries, proposing a “climate pollution fee” to the point where it has a large economic impact on these companies, and even rejecting any and all new infrastructure that relies on fossil fuels. Inslee’s bold climate proposals should excite primary voters, so what happened?

Simply put, Inslee was never in a good spot to begin with. A crowded primary with big names like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders can only pull a few lesser-known candidates to the mainstream. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Indiana) of South Bend and entrepreneur Andrew Yang seem to be the only candidates to have successfully broken from obscurity and into tangible support in the polls.

Similarly, in his debate performances, he never got his breakout moment on the stage. When 20 candidates took over two separate nights of debate, he easily fell into the shadows. He spoke the second-least amount of words of any candidates from both nights of the first debate and the fifth-least in the same format a month later. This led him to never pick up any steam and remain a relatively under-discussed candidate within the primary.

However, Inslee hasn't put his political career on hold. He announced his run for a third term as governor of Washington, and whispers of him heading the Environmental Protection Agency under a Democratic administration have surfaced. He's discussed his hope for Washington state to become a “progressive beacon” for the nation as his policies pave the way for future leaders.

Ultimately, Inslee’s climate plan and bold, progressive platforms didn’t catch the same wave as other big players. It is unfortunate, too, since he has clearly shown that he has consistently been a climate protector in politics. He even was one of the pioneers of the United States Climate Alliance, which has vowed states to individually uphold the Paris Climate Agreement after Trump announced the United States' withdrawal back in 2017.

Ultimately, Inslee was handed the short end of the stick in the primaries. The other candidates drowned out his message of it being “our moment” to reverse climate change. Hopefully, Inslee’s intellect and climate innovation will be utilized further in a third term as governor or to shine nationally as the leader of the EPA.

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