Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes argued to the United Nations that the United States needs to "stymie capitalism" in order to combat climate change, arguing that the free enterprise system has sent the world down a "path to destruction," according to a video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon from the United Nations archives.
Barnes, speaking as Wisconsin's lieutenant governor at the 2019 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Spain, was asked what policymakers should do to address climate change. Barnes put the blame on the United States and its economic system.
"The simple answer is get money out of politics," said Barnes. "The second answer is to stymie capitalism the way it is in America."
Barnes goes on to offer a blistering critique of American capitalism that is far stronger than any statements he has made on the campaign trail. The unearthed remarks could be an obstacle for Barnes as he works to distance himself from far-left policies he championed during his decade-long political career. His speech—which was first reported by Empower Wisconsin but has not previously been published in video—pins the blame for climate change, as well as gun violence, on widespread greed in the United States.
"How greedy can humanity be? The reason why we’re in this mess is the pursuit of greed. It’s capitalism run amok, that’s why we’re in this predicament now," Barnes said. "It’s the same reason why gun violence is so rampant in the United States of America, it’s the same reason why we deal with all these other issues that have common sense solutions."
"For so long, the thought process has been so short-term. It's been thinking about, ‘How do we make the next dollar in the next year?’" he added. "We got to reverse that type of thought. And again, until money is less of an issue, we’re going to continue down this path to destruction."
Barnes did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), the incumbent Barnes hopes to unseat, said Barnes's statements are "anti-American" and out of touch with mainstream voters.
"This is the kind of anti-American, socialist talk that gets turned into the kind of horrible liberal policies that are crushing Wisconsin families every day," said Johnson spokesman Ben Voelkel. "Mandela Barnes would make us less prosperous, less safe and less free, all because he's dead set on fundamentally transforming
Barnes's comments are similar to positions taken by left-leaning activist groups that are backing his campaign. People's Action, an activist group that endorsed Barnes, said its "long term agenda" is to "build a new economy and society" in the United States.
As we transform our economy, we will rebuild sustainability and invest first in the communities that have experienced the most devastating effects of environmental destruction and economic exclusion," says the group's platform.
Barnes has backed progressive energy policies throughout his political career and praised the Biden administration last year for revoking permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. As lieutenant governor, he led a commission on climate change that proposed divesting state pension funds from fossil fuels, instituting a carbon tax, and requiring schools to teach a racially focused climate justice curriculum.
But he has recently worked to downplay his involvement with far-left policies and activist movements. He recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he is "not running for the Senate to join the Squad"—a reference to a high-profile group of progressive Democrats including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.), whom he has praised. He has also distanced himself from the "defund the police" campaign, despite partnering with the movement’s leaders during his time in office.