Dear Editor: John Nichols' June 19 column urges that “Democrats should organize debate with one single topic: climate change”. His central point is that single issue debates are more productive than the dabbling debate model. And he cites Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Washington, and his climate change centered campaign as a good model.

Inslee insists that addressing climate change should be the first order of business for the next president. But during the Iraq War the singular issue for Inslee was just that, and he was very prominent in afterhours' anti-war filibuster sessions. And he was more on target then than he is now.

In fact, there was a day, when I was young, that all “progressives” knew we were headed to environmental catastrophe if we didn’t change the world’s ecological trajectory, but we didn’t have any solid notions about how to approach that and we had more pressing problems to deal with.

Civil rights legislation was finding intense resistance in our cities, where poverty was contributing to high crime rates and violence, much of which was race-based. There were Native American, undocumented migrant worker and women’s rights issues which had to be confronted. And there was the Vietnam War. All of those had to be addressed and we had faith that if they were, the planet would be saved.

So what’s changed? All of those conflicts are still burning, but we believe now we can avoid environmental catastrophe before we reduce conflict to a level where national and international institutions of governance can be effective arbiters of positive change. I suggest the cart’s being put before the horse.

I also suggest that the first single-issue debate should center on the issue that gives rise to treaty abrogation, violations of international law and human rights and the rise of demagogues: war.

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John Costello


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