The clash over how far the party should go to embrace boldly progressive policies emerged again when discussion turned to climate change.
The moderates on stage aggressively took aim at the push for a Green New Deal, which many of the candidates have endorsed. The plan, drafted by progressive Democrats, has included calls for universal healthcare and guaranteed jobs, which the more centrist candidates warned threatened to get in the way of climate action.
“It is a distraction,” said former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“It ties its progress to other things that are completely unrelated to climate,” said former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who supports putting a price on carbon.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren again accused the more moderate candidates on the stage of embracing Republican attacks, misleading voters by latching onto peripheral elements of the Green New Deal and using it to attack what is an ambitious call to action on climate. She laid out her plan that builds on the Green New Deal by investing trillions of dollars in research and uses it to reorient the American economy toward green manufacturing.
“No one wants to stop that,” Warren said. “What they want to do instead is find a Republican talking point of a made-up piece of another part and say, ‘Oh, we don’t agree with that.’”
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock warned that the tone of the party’s push on climate change was alienating voters like those from his state, who have worked in coal and other fossil fuel industries much of their lives.
“There are folks who have spent their whole lives powering our country,” he said. “And far too often Democrats talk as if they are part of the problem.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who routinely rails against fossil fuel companies, took issue.
“We are not anti-worker,” said Sanders, who stressed that his plan includes a transition for coal workers and others in the industry to jobs in a more green-oriented economy.
“I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas,” Sanders said. “Republicans are not afraid of big ideas. They can give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to billionaires and profitable corporations. So please don’t tell me we cannot take on the fossil fuel industry. It is not going to happen unless we do that.”