Photo: Unsplash/Element5 Digital

The Other Existential Threat: Nuclear Weapons & the 2020 Presidential Campaign

, | July 3, 2019, 9:23 am EST
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The 2020 presidential campaign kicked off in earnest with last week’s Miami debates, and many of the “high profile” topics were covered: climate change, immigration, gun control. One topic was a little more unexpected: nuclear weapons. On the first night, three of the ten candidates on stage said nuclear weapons or the threat of nuclear war is the biggest geopolitical threat facing the United States.

This should not be surprising: recent polling shows that in key primary states, including New Hampshire and Iowa, over 80% of respondents want to know what candidates think about nuclear weapons. We also know from recent national polling that more than 80% of people support arms control treaties with Russia.

Unfortunately, current US policies put the public at danger from nuclear use. Today, the United States retains the right to use nuclear weapons first in a crisis and maintains hundreds of land-based missiles on hair trigger alert. New, more usable nuclear weapons are being developed as part of a trillion-dollar plan to re-build and maintain the entire nuclear arsenal (a proposal mind you that dates to the Obama administration). For its part, the Trump administration has pulled out of crucial nuclear agreements that have kept us safe, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and seems poised to walk away from the New START Treaty as well.

These kinds of policies should be a major topic of discussion among candidates in the 2020 election, and candidates are already being asked about their positions on the campaign trail. Their responses and comments show a range of thought and understanding on the topic. You can see videos of the conversations with the presidential candidates about nuclear weapons on our YouTube channel. We’ll keep adding videos to this channel as members of the public and activists around the country continue to have these conversations with the candidates in the months ahead.

A question about nuclear weapons is asked at a Beto O’Rourke campaign event. Source: Sam Tardiff

Indeed, voters have a critical role to play by raising the profile of these discussions and helping to elevate this important conversation and debate—both within our communities and online.

Nuclear weapons and climate change are the two existential threats facing humanity. They are serious. They are growing. They are urgent.  And our country and leaders must act—before it’s too late.

So that’s where “we the people” come in. Let’s educate others. Let’s raise our voices. Let’s insist that those who wish to lead our country do just that—lead us on a path that reduces the risks these horrible weapons pose.

The Union of Concerned Scientists aims to increase public discussion about the use of nuclear weapons; we are posting these videos to highlight such discussion by candidates for president. As a 501c3 nonpartisan organization, UCS does not support or oppose any candidate for election.

Photo: Unsplash/Element5 Digital

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