Writing between the two Democratic presidential debates last week, Emily Atkins of The New Republic understandably complained
The entire first half of the debate passed without a single climate-related question. Some candidates did address it: In response to a question about the economy, Elizabeth Warren referred to a “worldwide need for green technology.” Washington Governor Jay Inslee mentioned the issue, too—understandable, given his campaign’s undivided focus on global warming.
But those candidates took it upon themselves to address climate change, pivoting away from other subjects brought up by the moderators. This, naturally, caught the eye of environmental reporters—and royally pissed off activists who have been pushing for a climate-focused debate.
It's possible the candidates, maybe even the hosts, learned what Atkins had written because there was much more discussion of climate in Thursday's debate, including five candidates who suggested "climate" when asked by Chuck Todd what issue would be the first they'd "push" if elected. (Some cited more than one issue.)
On a positive (or negative) note, that at least beat attention to workers' rights. Responding to Todd's question, Senator Bennet stated "the lack of economic mobility Bernie talks about."
Sanders' response, ironically, did not refer to workers, workers rights, or unions. Earlier, however, he did refer in passing to "the labor movement." That was the only time in that second debate any candidate in the party which once prided itself on being the party of "working people" uttered the word "labor." And "union" got no mention.
In the earlier debate, on Wednesday, Governor Inslee was asked how he'd address income inequality and replied in part
Well, I’m a little bit surprised. I think plans are great, but I’m a governor. And we’ve got to realize the people who brought us the weekend, unions, need — are going to bring us a long overdue raise in America.
And I’m proud of standing up for unions. I’ve got a plan to reinvigorate collective bargaining so we can increase wages finally. I marched with the SEIU folks. It is not right that the CEO of McDonald’s makes 2,100 times more than the people slinging cash at McDonald’s.
"Proud of standing up for unions" with "a plan to reinvigorate collective bargaining?" Judging by the avoidance of the very subject by nineteen other candidates over two nights, it's clear that the Democratic Party believes there is no electoral advantage in even mentioning the dreaded union.
Certainly, there should be no studio audience, whatever instructions it is given, in a presidential debate because it can skew candidate responses, bias the television (and later, video) audience in favor or against a candidate, and wastes valuable time which should be devoted to follow-up questions. Nonetheless, when 95% of the candidates of the party with a spark of interest in economic inequality completely ignores the contributions of unions and their role in uplifting workers and the entire economy, dedication to alleviating that "lack of economic mobility Bernie talks about" appears woefully limited.