By ann summers
The number of political debates seems irrelevant in an age of DVRs, YouTube, and podcasts but this is the moment when the Democratic party could actually use the format to finally crush the GOP and its commitment to Southern Strategic racism into the minor regional rump party some predicted it to be in 2008. Since it seems now a Democratic choice that ultimately will get accommodated somehow in the primaries and long before the convention, can the Democrats use the primary debates to not only provide an administration that repudiates the GOP’s current fetish for endless global wars, environmental depredation, and subjugation of minorities at home and set out a 50-state sea change in anticipation of the 2020 census and legislative reapportionment.
In the “marketplace of ideas” the televisual seems all too genre-driven. Debates for the US elections rarely give us more than memes or sound bites, some spontaneous, as in the more recent, “proceed, Governor”, or the more paradigmatic “I will not exploit the age of my opponent” from St Ronnie. The Town Hall format in the television context is now tightly controlled unlike its actual resemblance to direct participatory democracy in the form of state caucuses or retail primaries like New Hampshire. The US two-party duopoly will still be about programming criteria like scheduling and rating rather than discussing the merits of the de facto democratic socialism that saved this Republic in the 20th Century with national fiscal regulation, social security, and national coordination of war industries to defeat fascism.
Yet we could still have a debate on real policy changes aside from discussing the merits of how public campaign financing could actually minimize the absurdity of the current situation where Trump leads the GOP and the Democratic choice is as it has been since LBJ: centrists versus the “democratic wing” of the party. Media still wants its Kennedy-Nixon moments with thin make-up covering-up rational rhetorical debate by contrasting text and image where the radio audience like the Mercury Theater, thought JFK lost to the extraterrestrial who gave us “Peace with Honor” and “I am not a crook”.
With a real estate huckster in the GOP leading like the success of his beauty pageants with Latino television, it can only provide a moment where the Democrats can emerge from its own debates with real national victory and sweeping policy change rather than with the usual ideological fractures or electoral disinterest making the election into Electoral College calculus. The less the Democratic party makes debates like Thunderdome, the greater the nation can make a lasting move away from the cynical and reactionary manipulation of the historical disasters of race, class, and environmental exploitation.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is closing the door on adding more Democratic presidential debates, and said a controversial clause penalizing candidates for participating in unsanctioned debates would stand.
Speaking at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Wasserman Schultz, who has been under fire by Democratic presidential candidates and some within the DNC, said the debate schedule was final and there would be no changes.
“We’re not changing the process. We’re having six debates,” she said. “The candidates will be uninvited from subsequent debates if they accept an invitation to anything outside of the six sanctioned debates.”
In recent weeks, pressure has been building on the DNC to grow the debate schedule. The national party has sanctioned six debates, a dramatic cutback from 2008, when there were about two-dozen…
She defended the schedule, saying six debates offered plenty of opportunity for the candidates to distinguish themselves, and that too many debates would be a burden on the candidates, pulling them off the campaign trail and eating up valuable resources and time.
Wasserman Schultz noted that in addition to the debates, there have already been at least a dozen other forums the candidates have been invited to appear at, and that at least a half-dozen more have been planned.
“You can see that our candidates are gaining steam on their own,” she said. “Look at the crowds Bernie Sanders is drawing. We have not had any debates yet and Bernie Sanders has found a way to really catch fire with our base.