Social justice advocate steps up calls for DNC to hold poverty-focused debate

Rev. William Barber II on Wednesday stepped up pressure on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to hold a separate poverty-focused debate, saying the issue includes a number of interlocking injustices.

“If you’re going to deal with these issues you’re going to have to deal with them from an interlocking perspective and not just one at a time,” Barber, who is a co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, told Hill.TV during an interview on Wednesday.

“That’s why we’re saying let’s do it all — let’s look at racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy … all in one debate and show this country how they are all are connected and how they impact so many people of every race, creed and sexuality,” he added.

Barber made a similar call to party leaders at a DNC conference in San Francisco last weekend.

“We have to say the word, ‘poverty,’ ” Barber told party leaders. "We need to lift up the stories of folks in Appalachia and Kansas and the Mississippi Delta. We need to hold them alongside the folks in our gentrifying cities, some of whom work two jobs and still sleep in their cars at night."

Barber said his group is talking with networks now to look into holding a televised poverty-focused forum.

Barber and other leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign held a forum last week, where several White House hopefuls addressed how their economic policies would impact poor communities in the United States. Participants included 2020 Democratic frontrunners former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE (D-Calif.).

His comments come after the DNC rejected a resolution that would have allowed candidates to participate in a debate focused on climate change.

That move sparked criticism from a number of 2020 White House contenders, including everyone from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Analysis: 2020 digital spending vastly outpaces TV ads MORE (D-Md.).

Delaney, who has released a $4 trillion comprehensive plan to combat climate change, told Hill.TV on Monday that he was baffled by the move.

“For the DNC to say that candidates can’t engage in a climate change debate — how does that possibly make sense?” he asked. “We should debate the issues the American people want us to debate, not what the DNC thinks we should debate.”

DNC leadership, meanwhile, has said that it doesn’t want a debate on any singular issue and championed the idea of using forums instead.

Amid heightened criticism of the DNC over its rejection of a standalone debate, CNN announced Tuesday that it plans to host a live seven-hour town hall on climate change next week, featuring 10 Democratic primary contenders.

— Tess Bonn