Democratic Primary Exit Survey: Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee was never going to be president. Even after two booming debate performances that got people buzzing about his aggressive climate change messaging (and whether or not he’s hot), the polling and fundraising hills was too much to climb. On Wednesday night, he officially ended his presidential campaign.

Inslee might be the first 2020 Democratic primary dropout that people actually liked. After his announcement, many expressed their appreciation for the Washington governor’s campaign and hyper-driven focus on climate change.

Inslee’s messaging was loud, resounding and important. Unfortunately, climate change concern just isn’t a big enough issue to be the focal point of a successful presidential campaign. That’s to say it’s absolutely a big enough issue to be the focal point of a presidential campaign, but American politics and consciousness of climate science are so thoroughly fucked that it has little chance of succeeding.

But that doesn’t mean a climate change-focused candidate can’t make an impression, and Inslee was too passionate about it not to try. He was also smart enough to realize that using climate change as his pet issue in a crowded field of redundant moderates just might make him stand out. And it worked. Inslee actually made a positive impression on the Democratic field and its voters, which is more than pretty much any other primary dropout can say. And of all the candidates hoping to parlay their also-ran presidential campaign into a cabinet position, Inslee seems most likely to get one. Even on the final day of his campaign, he and his team released a new climate policy focused on rural America.

It seems ominous that Inslee’s campaign is ending as the Amazon rainforest burns in Brazil. The mortal coil of devastating irreversible environmental damage feels tighter by the day. But Inslee’s campaign is a reminder that one can educate, inform and inspire hope even in defeat. It’s up to the remaining candidates to pick up where he’s leaving off.