The Democratic debates are going to be a fiasco

Democrats will hold their first two presidential primary debates on June 26 and 27 in Miami, and so far they are shaping up to be a total fiasco. There are now 24 declared candidates seeking to cashier President Trump — almost enough for a full Major League Baseball roster—and the flimsy standards the party set to get a slot on stage will be met by almost all of them. Instead of substantive debates between the leading candidates, the party is going to get a chorus line of never-gonna-be-presidents yapping at each other for two hours.

Most of these people have no chance of becoming the nominee. They know it. The Democratic National Committee knows it. And the top tier candidates know it too. The debates should be structured as such, rather than like cattle-call auditions for The Voice.

It is understandable, after the unity-destroying trainwreck of the 2016 primary, that the DNC didn’t want to appear to be needlessly excluding particular candidates so early in the process. But their rules for making the first two rounds of debates in June and July — 65,000 individual donations with 200 or more donors from each of at least 20 states, or hitting 1 percent or higher in three or more qualifying polls — turned out to be Maginot Line inadequate. With the increasing ease of dropping a few bucks into a campaign and the 24/7 attention already given to the 2020 election, it was inevitable that basically anyone with even the slightest national profile or resources could meet one of these two bars.

The DNC announced that no more than 20 candidates would make the first debate, and they got their 20. The rules are so lenient that the DNC will have to apply controversial tiebreaker rules just to keep it at 20. Rather than the Varsity/Junior Varsity structure of the early 2016 GOP debates, candidates will be randomly assigned to one of the two 10-person shows. Including time for the moderators and commercial breaks, no one will crack even 10 minutes of speaking time. That’s not enough for a Julian Castro or a John Hickenlooper to distinguish themselves from the frontrunners, which raises the question: why are they up there in the first place? 10-person debates make for neither particularly good TV, nor especially substantive discourse.

The last time Democrats had a large primary field, the first debate was also quite packed. On April 26, 2007, eight contenders met on stage: former Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska), former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Sen. Joe Biden (Del.), Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), and Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.). With so many crowded on stage, there was little time for anything except a single question on each subject directed at each candidate, or occasionally something like a roll call vote on particular policy questions. At one point the participants were literally asked for a show of hands about whether they ever …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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