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The DNC is Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place With the Debates

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    The 2020 Democratic field is the most diverse and qualified in history. It is also, by far, the largest in history. Unfortunately, these two things are mutually exclusive. Since the field is so large, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for many otherwise qualified candidates to break through ahead of the pack.

    Since the Democratic National Committee (DNC) found out the hard way in 2016 that the mere appearance of picking sides can have unintended consequences that dominate the discussion within a party at a time it needs to be coalescing behind a nominee they came up with a strict set of rules governing the debates this election cycle. Every candidate was informed of and agreed to the new debate qualifications based off polling *and* the number of individual contributors to a campaign. Those standards started off reasonably low, but have been steadily raised as the debate season goes on in an attempt to have more substantive debates in the lead-up to the first caucus and primaries.

    While all candidates initially agreed to these standards, there is now some push-back by not just the candidates who no longer qualify for the debates, but by the top-tier candidates, as well. Nine candidates, including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, wrote to the DNC asking them to reconsider the debate qualification rules arguing that the "unintended result does not live up to the values of our Democratic Party and it does not serve the best interest of Democratic voters, who deserve to hear from and be able to choose among the best our party has to offer." Not surprisingly, the DNC denied the request.

    I honestly feel bad for the DNC and the number of otherwise wholly qualified candidates who just happened to run for President in a year two dozen other people decided to. In order to avoid being accused of tipping the scales, the DNC had to come up with a strict set of standards and stick to them. Unfortunately for a number of candidates, the DNC sticking to their strict set of standards is basically the death knell for their campaign.

    So while I feel for many of the candidates who didn't qualify for the December debate, I have to admit that I agree with the DNC here. The only way we will have a genuine, substantive debate on the issues is by having more genuine, substantive debates. That requires giving fewer candidates more time to speak. We simply can't have that with a bakers dozen of candidates sharing the same stage.

    What do you think? Do you agree that the DNC is making the right decision with gradually setting stricter and stricter debate qualifications or are they making a mistake by winnowing the field before a single vote is cast?

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    They are 100% making the right decision, given the format they are working with, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the way they go about broadcasting their debates in general.

    I think everyone can agree - these debates are formatted terribly. Why in the world are we treating something as serious as who will be the next possible President of the United States in the same vein as we do American Idol? They are arbitrarily time constricting these debates and sandwiching segments in between commercial breaks just to satisfy national TV formats? Why? Why does anyone feel the need to profit off of debates in the first place? This should be purely educational.

    In a digital age where you can stream an all day event on YouTube for free (basically free), why do you try and cram 10-12 candidates into a 2-3 hour TV program with commercial breaks? And limit their time to talk to 90 seconds and 15 to counter?

    If they REALLY cared about having real, substantial debates they would stream them live, commercial free, and have them go on for several hours. Then there would be tons of options to air those debates. You could nationally air a truncated version of the debates on TV for those without internet access, but at least give us the option to watch these candidates really air out their plans and stances with much more air time.

    And then you could make it harder for candidates to qualify for the big stage, but still have a 'junior' section for the lesser known candidates still running, and stream that for free as well. This rule that candidates cannot debate each other during the campaign without the DNC's approval is a problem. If they want all that power, where is the harm in allowing those candidates to get together on a smaller stage, in a small venue, have a camera person there and stream it live and put it up on YouTube? Would take very very little effort.

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    J.K.Logic Wrote: I think everyone can agree - these debates are formatted terribly. Why in the world are we treating something as serious as who will be the next possible President of the United States in the same vein as we do American Idol? They are arbitrarily time constricting these debates and sandwiching segments in between commercial breaks just to satisfy national TV formats? Why? Why does anyone feel the need to profit off of debates in the first place? This should be purely educational.

    I couldn't have said this better myself. Modern debates would make those who witnessed the Lincoln-Douglas duels wince.

    The only bright side I see for tonight's debate is that it's being hosted by PBS and there will only be "three breaks during the expected three hour broadcast, for a total of 11 minutes." That is far better than prior debates that seemed to be more focused on advertising breaks than having a genuine debate.

    If we truly wanted legitimate debates meant to inform audiences of where candidates stand then they should all be hosted by PBS or C-Span and have zero or as few breaks as possible (depending on the length of the debate). Unfortunately, that's just a pipe dream in our modern age.