An opinion writer from The Washington Post makes a good point about the Democratic debates that recently were held and which will continue last this month.
Cull the herd, says Jennifer Rubin, whose opinion pieces sometimes find their way into the Herald via the Post’s wire service.
Rubin is suggesting changes after CNN – which will host the next two-night Democratic primary debate – announced it will conduct a televised draw to decide when each of the 20 candidates will appear on stage. CNN wasn’t clear how it will draw the field.
Rubin suggests what the Herald and many other debate sponsors already know: That it’s a waste of time to allow little-known candidates with no hope to be on stage with legitimate contenders.
Rubin reports that there are 10 Democratic candidates that have at least 1 percent or higher in national polls, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro and Tulsi Gabbard.
Unfortunately, 20 candidates have been invited to participate. That’s 20 people interrupting each other, 20 people talking past their allotted time, 20 rounds of shallow answers because of time limitations and two nights of debates that undoubtedly will fail to winnow the best candidates and give them the ability to go deeper with answers that could swing the 2020 election.
At the last round of debates – held in the last week of June – some questions were answered with a simple “raise your hand if …” format. We’ve come a long way from the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Debates are an important part of the election process, and especially so at the presidential primary level. That’s because in the general presidential election, many voters simply vote along party lines, no matter how their candidate fared in head-to-head debates with an opponent.
At the primary level, it’s different. Primary voters are acutely interested in finding a front-runner to carry the party’s flag. The process is aided by debates, which force the candidates to think on their feet, and usually in front of an audience. The best part of a debate isn’t just the candidates speaking answers into a microphone, but the candidates actually engaging each other on those answers. The more people on stage, the less that happens.
At the state and local levels, debates are even more important, since they offer voters what might be their only chance to see and hear candidates providing in-depth answers to numerous questions.
So when the Herald sponsors future statewide debates, don’t be surprised when minor-party candidates – whose party did not gather 3 or even 2 percent of votes in a previous election – are not invited to participate. Feelings will be hurt, but it is in the best interest of voters for the top candidates to square off for a quality, and true, debate.
Rubin is right. Too many candidates are clogging the Democrats’ process, and it’s keeping America from hearing in-depth answers – and the ensuing give-and-take between contenders – to questions that really matter.