Former president Barack Obama, whose legacy is being rapidly dismantled by President Donald Trump and a Republican Party dominating all levels of government, was instrumental in the election of Tom Perez as the new head of the Democratic Party. Perez defeated Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the initial front-runner in the Democratic National Committee Chair race, by a 235-200 vote on Sunday.
Obama, whose presidency oversaw a catastrophic collapse in electoral power for Democrats, and who paved the way for Hillary Clinton as the failed Democratic presidential nominee, has publicly expressed his intent to continue to direct the party now that he is out of office.
Ellison entered the race with backing from influential leaders across the Democratic Party, appearing to unify the interest groups of the party that had been split into the camps supporting Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary. Ellison’s career includes environmental-justice and civil-rights organizing, local and national electoral organizing, and effective public engagement on the national stage—perhaps most notably his warning to the nation to take Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seriously in the summer of 2015, while political pundits were treating Trump as a good-for-ratings joke.
Ellison’s campaign faced concerted public attacks against Ellison’s candidacy from anti-Muslim activists and party funders who accused Ellison of being an anti-Semite despite a long record of alliance with and advocacy for progressive Jewish politics.
In addition, Ellison ran a campaign publicly discouraging engagement by the grassroots members of the party, contradicting his own declared vision of a grassroots-driven party.
Meanwhile, Perez rose in favor among the DNC membership after gaining the public endorsement of key Obama allies, foremost among them former Vice President Joe Biden. That Obama was personally backing Perez was widely understood but never directly confirmed.In the wake of Perez’s victory, Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere has reported that Obama himself selected Perez to run and then personally lobbied DNC members on behalf of Perez:
[T]he distaste for [Ellison’] approach and profile . . . helped push former President Barack Obama to urge Perez into the race — and continue the support all the way through. He called DNC members himself, and had aides including confidante Valerie Jarrett, former political director David Simas and his White House director of political engagement Paulette Aniskoff working members by phone through the votes on Saturday afternoon. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who officially endorsed Perez, also worked the phones with members.
Obama and Biden made a four-point pitch, according to a person familiar with the call strategy: Perez’s unimpeachable progressive credentials at the Justice and Labor departments, his ability to bring people together, his management skills and how he was one of the stars of the Obama administration.
Congratulations to my friend Tom Perez on his election to lead the Democratic Party, and on his choice of Keith Ellison to help him lead it. I’m proud of all the candidates who ran, and who make this great party what it is. What unites our party is a belief in opportunity – the idea that however you started out, whatever you look like, or whomever you love, America is the place where you can make it if you try. Over the past eight years, our party continued its track record of delivering on that promise: growing the economy, creating new jobs, keeping our people safe with a tough, smart foreign policy, and expanding the rights of our founding to every American – including the right to quality, affordable health insurance. That’s a legacy the Democratic Party will always carry forward. I know that Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much.
Obama’s depiction of the Democratic Party as the party of “opportunity” hearkens back to President Ronald Reagan, who frequently described the Republican Party as the party of “opportunity.” After his victory, Perez told Meet the Press “we are the party of opportunity and inclusion.”
In post-election exit interviews, Obama made clear that he intends to maintain control over the Democratic Party, whose problems he perceives to be rooted in messaging failures, not policy weaknesses. He told Rolling Stone that it would be “incorrect” to conclude that the Obama administration neglected rural or working-class communities; instead the discontent is a result of a “communications” problem to be solved by a new “common story” and then “figuring out how do we attract more eyeballs and make it more interesting and more entertaining and more persuasive.”
If you look at the data from the election, if it were just young people who were voting, Hillary would have gotten 500 electoral votes. So we have helped, I think, shape a generation to think about being inclusive, being fair, caring about the environment. And they will have growing influence year by year, which means that America over time will continue to get better. This is a cultural issue. And a communications issue. It is true that a lot of manufacturing has left or transformed itself because of automation. But during the course of my presidency, we added manufacturing jobs at historic rates… The challenge we had is not that we’ve neglected these communities from a policy perspective. That is, I think, an incorrect interpretation. You start reading folks saying, “Oh, you know, working-class families have been neglected,” or “Working-class white families have not been paid attention to by Democrats.” Actually, they have. What is true, though, is that whatever policy prescriptions that we’ve been proposing don’t reach, are not heard, by the folks in these communities. And what they do hear is Obama or Hillary are trying to take away their guns or they disrespect you. I’ll spend time in my first year out of office writing a book, and I’m gonna be organizing my presidential center, which is gonna be focused on precisely this issue of how do we train and empower the next generation of leadership. How do we rethink our storytelling, the messaging and the use of technology and digital media, so that we can make a persuasive case across the country? And not just in San Francisco or Manhattan but everywhere, about why climate change matters or why issues of economic inequality have to be addressed.
Well, the most important thing that I’m focused on is how we create a common set of facts. That sounds kind of abstract. Another way of saying it is, how do we create a common story about where we are. It’s gonna require those of us who are interested in progressive causes figuring out how do we attract more eyeballs and make it more interesting and more entertaining and more persuasive.
Obama told NPR and David Axelrod that his post-presidency plan is to focus on “developing young Democratic leaders” to continue the same policies as his administration but with a better messaging approach to ex-urban and rural voters.
Now, with his pick as the head of the Democratic Party, a newly re-launched Organizing for Action, and a foundation overseen by Silicon Valley and Wall Street executives, the former president is in a strong position to put his plan to defend his presidency’s reputation through a new generation of Democratic politics into action.
Politico, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post are hosting events during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, one of the organizations called out by Senate Democrats earlier this month for “perpetrating a sprawling web of misdirection and disinformation to block action on climate change.”
The American Petroleum Institute is a notorious front group for ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and other climate polluters. The organization has long played a key role in the industry’s web of denial, as Sen. Dick Durbin noted on the Senate floor. Durbin read from a 1998 API memo explaining the oil industry’s plan to systematically deny climate science: “Victory would be achieved when uncertainty about the science would be part of the public perception.”
With the paid collusion of Politico and The Atlantic, API is still blowing smoke into the eyes of the public. They are promoting their civilization-threatening Vote4Energy “voter education project,” which calls for an “all-of-the-above energy strategy ” with “increased production of oil and natural gas,” denying the urgent scientific warnings about increased greenhouse pollution.
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic National Platform are all calling for a Department of Justice investigation of the fossil-fuel industry for “corporate fraud” and “misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.”
Democrats – including representatives of the Hillary Clinton campaign – appear to be giving the “web of denial” social license with their participation in Big Oil propaganda events during the Democratic National Convention.
- Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO)
- Gov. Jay Inslee (WA)
- Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)
- Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
- Rep. Gene Green (TX-29)
- Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
- Trevor Houser, Energy Advisor, Hillary Clinton campaign
- Heather Zichal, former White House climate advisor
Planned participants in the other “Vote4Oil”-sponsored events during the week include:
- Sen. Chris Coons (DE)
- Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14)
- Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)
- Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
- John Podesta, chair, Hillary Clinton campaign
- Neera Tanden, President and CEO, Center for American Progress
- Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
- And other Democratic advisors and former top officials
It is a troubling state of affairs that the journalists of the Atlantic and Politico are accepting payment from dangerous propagandists. It is even worse that Democrats who recognize the seriousness of the climate emergency and the crisis of fossil-fuel influence and deception are rolling in Big OIl’s muck.
Climate Hawks Vote has launched the following petition to Democrats attending the DNC:
Climate Movement Flexes Political Power: Clinton's Democratic Platform Adopts Strong Climate Principles
Sanders and Clinton delegates speak in support of unity climate amendment.
However, the Sanders delegates, led by Josh Fox, were unable to get the platform to include language calling for a national moratorium on fracking. Led by Hillary Clinton energy advisor Trevor Houser, the committee adopted language calling for more regulation of fracking and a rebuilding of existing natural-gas infrastructure instead.
The text of the adopted unity amendment is below:
Page 19 Line 18, insert: Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals. Democrats believe that climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science, and support using every tool available to reduce emissions now.
Page 19, Line 26, insert: We will streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.
We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As we continue working to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, we most ensure federal actions don’t “significantly exacerbate” global warming. We support a comprehensive approach that insures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating climate change.
Democrats believe that our commitment to meeting the climate challenge most also be reflected in the infrastructure investments we make. We need to make our existing infrastructure safer and cleaner and build the new infrastructure necessary to power our clean energy future. To create good-paying middle class jobs that can’t be outsourced, Democrats support high labor standards in clean energy infrastructure, and the right to form or join a union, whether in renewable power or advanced vehicle manufacturing. During the clean energy transition, we will insure landowners, communities of color and tribal nations are at the table.
The text of Houser’s amendment supporting the continued fracking of natural gas is below:
Democrats are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, and ensuring tough safeguards are in place, including Safe Drinking Water provisions, to protect local water supplies. We believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it. We will reduce methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2025 through common-sense standards for both new and existing sources and by repairing and replacing thousands of miles of leaky pipes. This will both protect our climate and create thousands of good-paying jobs.
Democrats believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to wait for another nation to lead the world in combating the global climate emergency. In fact, we must move first in launching a green industrial revolution, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because it is in our own national interest to do so. Just as America’s greatest generation led the effort to defeat the Axis Powers during World War II, so must our generation now lead a World War II-type national mobilization to save civilization from catastrophic consequences. We must think beyond Paris. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, climate experts, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities to chart a course toward the healthy future we all want for our families and communities.
Climate Hawks Vote is calling for the Democratic Platform to call for a national ban on fracking.
Under President Obama’s leadership . . . We are getting more of our energy from the sun and wind, and importing less oil from overseas.
Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
2. Create Good-Paying Jobs
We will build 21st century energy and water systems, modernize our schools, and continue to support the expansion of high-speed broadband networks. We will protect communities from the impact of climate change by investing in green and resilient infrastructure.
c. Clean Energy Jobs
We must help American workers and businesses compete for jobs and investments in global clean energy, high-tech products, internet technology products, and advanced manufacturing and vehicles. And we must make American manufacturing more internationally competitive by making it the greenest and most efficient in the world, including by investing in industrial energy efficiency.
3. Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality
Democrats will claw back tax breaks for 22 companies that ship jobs overseas, eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies, and crack 23 down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities.
On the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), there are a diversity of views in the party. Many Democrats are on record stating that the agreement does not meet the standards set out in this platform; other Democrats have expressed support for the agreement.
4. Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Create Ladders of Opportunity
k. Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations
We are committed to principles of environmental justice in Indian Country and we recognize that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles. We call for a climate change policy that protects tribal resources, protects tribal health, and provides accountability through accessible, culturally appropriate participation and strong enforcement. Our climate change policy will cut carbon emission, address poverty, invest in disadvantaged communities, and improve both air quality and public health. We support the tribal nations to develop wind, solar and other clean energy jobs.
6. Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice
Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. Fifteen of the hottest years on record have occurred this century. While Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax”, 2016 is on track to break global temperature records once more. Cities from Miami to Baltimore are already threatened by rising seas. California and the West have suffered years of brutal drought. Alaska has been scorched by wildfire. New York has been battered by superstorms, and Texas swamped by flash floods. The best science tells us that without ambitious, immediate action to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases across our economy, all of these impacts will be far worse in the future. We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged.
Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge; creating millions of good-paying middle class jobs; reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050; and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.
Clean Energy Economy
We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country. We will cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals, and offices; modernize our electric grid; and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world, creating new jobs and saving families and businesses money on their energy bills. And we will transform American transportation by reducing oil consumption through cleaner fuels, making new investments in public transportation, expanding electrification of the vehicle fleet, increasing the fuel efficiency of cars, boilers, ships, and trucks, and by building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas. Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.
Democrats are committed to defending, implementing, and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan, fuel economy standards for automobiles and heavy-duty vehicles, building codes and appliance standards, and the reduction of methane emissions from oil and gas production. We will work to expand access to cost-saving renewable energy by low-income households, create good-paying jobs in communities that have struggled with energy poverty, and oppose efforts by utilities to limit consumer choice or slow clean energy deployment. We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. And we believe that the federal government should lead by example, which is why we will take steps to power the government with 100 percent clean electricity.
Environmental and Climate Justice
Democrats believe clean air and clean water are basic rights of all Americans. Yet as we saw in Flint, Michigan, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately home to environmental justice “hot spots,” where air pollution, water pollution, and toxic hazards like lead increase health and economic hardship. The impacts of climate change will also disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, tribal nations, and Alaska Native villages—all of which suffer the worst losses during extreme weather and have the fewest resources to prepare. Simply put, this is environmental racism. The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind—including the coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations. Democrats will fight to make sure these workers and their families get the benefits they have earned and the respect they deserve, and we will make new investments in energy producing communities to help create jobs and build a brighter and more resilient economic future.
All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose the risks they face, including climate risk. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable. Democrats also respectfully request the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies accused of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.
Public Lands and Waters
Democrats believe in the conservation and collaborative stewardship of our shared natural heritage: the public lands and waterways, the oceans, Great Lakes, the Arctic, and all that makes America’s great outdoors priceless. As a nation, we need policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands for all Americans, protect species and wildlife, and harness the immense economic and social potential of our public lands and waters.
We oppose drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast, and believe we need to reform fossil fuel leasing on public lands. We can phase down extraction of fossil fuels from our public lands, starting with the most polluting sources, while making our public lands and waters engines of the clean energy economy and creating jobs across the country.
11. Global Threats
g. Climate Change
Climate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security. According to the military, climate change is a threat multiplier that is already contributing to new conflicts over resources, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. While Donald Trump says that climate change is a “hoax” created by and for the Chinese, Democrats recognize the danger facing our country and our planet. We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We will not only meet the goals we set in Paris, we will seek to exceed them and push other countries to do the same by slashing carbon pollution and rapidly driving down emissions of potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons. We will support developing countries in their efforts to mitigate carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, deploy more clean energy, and invest in climate resilience and adaptation. And as a proud Arctic nation, we are against putting the region at risk through drilling in the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, while protecting our strategic interests, we will seek collaborative, science-based approaches to be good stewards of the rapidly changing Arctic region.
Beginning on Wednesday, the Democratic Party plans to hold a two-day forum in Washington DC to solicit public testimony on the national platform. Details on when and where the forum will take place were released to press on Saturday. The forum was announced on May 27.
On Wednesday, June 8th and Thursday, June 9th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., the 2016 Democratic Platform Drafting Committee will hold the first in a series of regional events. The forum is broken up into three thematic sessions, the first beginning at 1:30 pm on Wednesday and scheduled to go to 5 pm. Thursday has two sessions scheduled, a morning session from 9 am to 12 pm, and and afternoon session from 1 pm to 5 pm.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Platform Drafting Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) CEO, Rev. Leah D. Daughtry will deliver opening remarks at the forum. The Drafting Committee will then hear from policy experts and other Democrats, chosen from people who have applied to testify.
The schedule for Wednesday involves one afternoon session entitled “Leveling the Playing Field: Creating Opportunity and Removing Barriers.” Thursday morning is “Moving America Forward: Education, Jobs, and the Economy,” and the afternoon is “America’s Role in the World.”
Although there are not explicit references to climate, energy, and the environment in the session titles, it is expected to come up in public testimony.
The Platform Drafting Committee includes two prominent environmentalists, one chosen by each campaign. Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, was selected by the Sanders campaign. Carol Browner, the former EPA Administrator under Clinton’s husband, and the chair of the League of Conservation Voters (which endorsed Hillary Clinton last fall), was selected by the Clinton campaign. Browner works for the international lobbying and consulting firm Albright Stonebridge Group.
See below for the full press release: