The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced Thursday, April 20, that they will not be sponsoring debates in the upcoming presidential primary election. This comes in the wake of news that President Biden would be launching his reelection campaign. The DNC has released a statement indicating that they will fully support Biden in his efforts.
Not allowing candidates to debate is taking it too far in this circumstance. As of right now, two other Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring: Robert F Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson. Apparently, a part of what the DNC considers “support” is preventing their endorsed candidate from having to engage with the ideas of his primary opponents. Preventing these debates from occurring will be harmful to the party and take away the rights of Democratic voters to choose their candidate for President in 2024.
AP News reports, “forty-seven percent of democrats say they want him to run, also up slightly from only 37% who said that in January.”
If nearly half the party is interested in looking at other candidates, they should have that option. During an interview on ABC, Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson said, “He certainly should debate me. It’s called democracy, and I’m running as well.” If the DNC is so confident that Biden is the strongest option, they shouldn’t be turning down a chance for him to make his case.
Competitive primary elections provide the party with several advantages in a general presidential election. It identifies the candidate that generates the most popular support within the party. In a country where the average voter turnout is only about 60%, it’s important to run someone who genuinely captures the imagination of the party. Additionally, hosting debates generates a huge amount of free media attention. Primary debates are a chance for the most powerful people in the party to discuss their vision for dealing with the problems their constituents face in front of the entire American Press Corps. Lastly, debates engage voters. Debates, like a boxing fight or professional sports match, are essentially scheduled conflicts. And if there’s one thing that is sure to get the attention of the public, it is a scheduled conflict. Thousands of media organizations and small content creators will create content using footage from the debate and spread the democratic message far and wide.
During the 2016 election, presidential candidate Larry Lesig was polling at 3% and it was considered highly controversial that the DNC excluded him from the debates. Lesig ran on an anti-corruption platform, promising to get money out of politics, “draining the swamp” so to speak. He told the Washington Post, “Our only chance to make this issue central to the 2016 presidential election was to be in those debates. But last week we learned that the Democratic Party has changed its rules for inclusion in the debates, and under the new rule unless we can time travel, there’s no way we can qualify.”
Former President Trump would go on to win the 2016 election on an anti-corruption platform. There’s no telling whether Lesig would’ve been effective or not, but the DNC suppressed a candidate with a winning platform by changing the rules. Candidate Williamson has a 10% approval rating but is also not getting a chance to debate. Changing the rules to your advantage can only signal one thing, a lack of confidence. Last time the DNC put forward a candidate they were unsure about, Trump became president. So, here’s a novel idea, instead of continuing to force unpopular candidates down your constituents’ throats, trust them to examine the field in a debate and choose who they feel the strongest candidate is.
I spoke with Barrington, Illinois resident Ann Parker, 85, a former English teacher, lifelong Democrat and someone who voted for President Biden. “At this point I’m not delighted with him. He’s working hard to improve people’s lives but he’s just getting old,” Parker said. “I think he’s sharp enough to deal with a debate so I’m not sure why he wouldn’t do it.” Considering he only has a 38% approval rating, debate should be on the table.
The young vote propelled President Biden to his victory in 2020. He only won the electoral college by about 78,000 votes in three swing states. 50% of the youth voted, up from 39% in 2016, and overwhelmingly for Biden. In today’s polls, this is the demographic in which he’s doing the worst, with only 25% of younger voters saying they think he should run again. The younger Democratic voters I spoke with were generally concerned with Biden’s age as well. “With the pace technology is developing, we need someone leading the country with at least a rudimentary understanding of computers,” said Liam Rolls, 22, McHenry resident who voted for Biden. “Are we sure he can even use an iPhone?”
As it stands now, we may be seeing a repeat of the very close race seen in 2020. Chicago is set to host the next DNC convention without the benefit of a crucial Democratic party debate to find the best candidate. Democrats will be forced to either vote for Biden, or not vote at all. This may spell the end of the Democrats’ hold on the highest office in the land.