Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the National Chair of Democratic National Committee spoke at the Democratic Party Convention last week in New Hampshire, going down a list of negative talking points from Republican candidates. The event, covered by C-SPAN, panned to the crowd showing members throwing up Bernie Sanders signs and chanting “WE WANT DEBATES!”
In an attempt to settle the impatient crowd, Schultz asked, “My friends, what’s more important? Drawing a contrast with Republicans or arguing about debates? Let’s focus on our task at hand!”
Shultz heads the Democratic National Committee (DNC). One of the tasks is scheduling debates between candidates who are seeking the nomination for the Democratic Party. In a unilateral decision, the DNC decided that it would only host six primary debates. Immediately after, former Maryland governor and presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley called the decision a “rigged process.” Soon after, Bernie Sanders criticized Shultz, calling her “dead wrong.”
In sharp contrast to the Republicans, FOX News has already hosted three major debates and two junior debates, compensating for the large number of Republican candidates. Although FOX has taken it upon itself to be the main network of the Republican media, the exposure still exists. The Republicans will have a total of 12 major debates by March 10, 2016. The nation knows more about the Republican candidates than they do about the Democratic candidates.
The number of Republican debates is fresh and lively, while the number of the Democratic debates is dry and thin.
Despite Bernie Sanders taking the lead in polls from Iowa and New Hampshire, 38 percent of Democratic voters across the nation still do not know who he is, according to the Huffington Post. Candidates like Jim Webb and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee have received little to no media coverage.
The debates are integral to the 2016 campaign. Contrast the massive crowds that attend Bernie Sanders’ events across the nation to the handful of people that attend Clinton events. A multitude of reasons exist, but it boils down to two important ones: Admission for Clinton events has averaged $2,700 per ticket and Schultz is a Clinton supporter.
The Clinton campaign has taken advantage of Citizens United, with a super PAC pouring millions of dollars into campaign ads, cable exposure and cable consciousness. The problem is that she has yet to confront Sanders or O’Malley in an open discussion. Those are the moments that voters pay attention the most. What do candidates really believe? How do they feel about other candidates in their party? There is no script in these situations. The questions are asked, the candidates answer and the voters learn. This is where the American people make their decisions.
What is the “task at hand” for the DNC? This issue runs deeper than who is more popular among voters. This is a matter of basic democracy and cheating. Schultz has been a loyal Clinton supporter since the 2008 campaign. Once the debates happened in 2007 between her and Obama, voters realized that Clinton was not all she was cracked up to be. If there are not enough debates, the candidate with the most money has the most advertisements. The natural frontrunner in this case would be Hillary Clinton. Her challengers would get pushed aside unfairly.
Today, we are witnessing the same thing happen between her and Bernie Sanders. Voters are learning that she does not have any substantial legislation or finite positions. To suppress that suspicion, Schultz is abusing her position in not allowing other Democratic candidates to get the coverage they deserve.
The first official debate for the Democrats will be on Oct. 13 in Las Vegas, but it may be too late at this point. Sanders, O’Malley and the remaining candidates have a tougher battle to fight now: The media.