Democrats Seem Likely To Make The Same Debate Mistakes Republicans Did

Faced with the prospect of a large field like the one Republicans had in 2016, Democrats are trying to figure out how to handle debates. So far, the ideas being put forward are as bad as what the GOP ended up doing.

Shortly before Christmas, the Democratic Party unveiled plans for the pre-primary debates during the 2020 Presidential race:

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee on Thursday unveiled the early outlines of its 2020 presidential primary debate plans, a process that could allow a large number of candidates to face off over two consecutive evenings in at least a dozen planned debates.

Tom Perez, the chairman of the committee, announced that the party would hold six debates in 2019 and the rest in the first six months of 2020. In a shift from tradition, none are scheduled for the early-primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada until 2020.

With nearly three dozen Democrats pondering a presidential bid, party officials anticipate a rush of candidates eager to grab a spot in the nationally televised forums. Depending on the size of the field, the committee may decide to split the debate over two consecutive evenings in the same location, Mr. Perez said, and would conduct a random selection process that would take place publicly to determine which candidates speak on which nights. He did not elaborate on how that process might work.

Mr. Perez said the committee had not set a maximum number of candidates who could appear on the stage and was planning for the possibility of a “double-digit field.”

“We will likely have a large field of candidates,” he said. “We expect that large field and we welcome that large field. Accommodating a large field of such qualified candidates is a first-class problem to have.”

The new process is a direct response to criticism leveled during the 2016 campaign that the committee organized the debate schedule to favor Hillary Clinton, the eventual party nominee. Her two primary opponents, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, accused the party’s leadership of creating a “rigged” process by limiting the number of debates to six — two of which were scheduled for Saturday evenings and one for a Sunday. Eventually the committee sanctioned four more debates.

For the 2020 campaigns, the committee plans to change the threshold for participation to include factors beyond just the polling numbers, such as grass-roots fund-raising support, to capture candidates who may have support that isn’t showing up in public polls. Many questions remain unanswered, including how the party will determine how many candidate are “too many” for a single debate stage, and what to do once the field begins to narrow.

“We want to make sure that the grass roots have a real say in who our next nominee is,” said Mr. Perez. “Grass-roots fund-raising is one method of ensuring participation from candidates who may have a different background and profile and base of support.”

The first debate will take place in June 2019 and the last in April 2020. The committee will not sanction a candidate’s participation in any other debates, though forums hosted by other groups, including cable TV networks, are permitted as long as only one candidate appears on the stage at a time. The first primary contest, the Iowa caucuses, is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020, the same day early voting will open in California. Early voting in Vermont will begin a few weeks before, if the current schedule holds.

The two-night format differs from the way Republicans handled their big field in 2016, when more than a dozen candidates were entered. Officials created a format of two debates on the same night, based on poll numbers, with some candidates relegated to an early face-off that was not nationally televised.

Mr. Perez, whose stewardship of the Democratic committee has been attacked by some members of his own party, called the plan the “most inclusive debate process in our history.” He said the committee’s goal was to give all the candidates an opportunity to express their vision to voters while also avoiding weakening the eventual nominee for the general election.

The process comes after extensive consultation with Democratic politicians, strategists and activists, including former and current advisers to both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, and potential media partners for the events. To avoid any perception of bias, the committee did not consult with any potential 2020 candidates or their aides.

As noted in the article above, while it’s not clear at this point, it seems apparent that there will be a large number of Democrats in the race for the nomination, at least at the beginning of the process in 2019. In this sense, Democrats will be faced with many of the same logistical problems that Republicans and their debate partners were faced with at the start of the 2016 election cycle, when the first debate was held in August 2015. At that point in the race, there were seventeen people in the race for the nomination, including former Senators, Governors, and Members of Congress. While many of these candidates were near the bottom of the field in the polls, the organizers of the early debates recognized that excluding them entirely was not practical. Given the fact that having seventeen people on the same stage at the same time would have been impractical, the RNC and organizers came up with the solution of dividing the debate into essentially two events. The main debates, which aired in prime time, included the candidates leading in the polls, while what came to be called the “undercard” debate included other candidates who were further down in the polls but nonetheless arguably had resumes that demanded they not be ignored entirely. It was far from an ideal solution, but given the size of the field, it wasn’t entirely a bad idea about how to deal with an otherwise intractable problem.

The biggest problem with the undercard debate idea, of course, is that it really didn’t address the fundamental complaint of the lower-ranked candidates that they were being denied the media coverage that the participants in the “main” debate would get. In some cases, this was because some of these candidates, such as former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, didn’t qualify even for the undercard debate, but mainly it was because the undercard debates would typically be held before the main debate beginning around 6:00 p.m. Eastern time, a time when Americans in the eastern half of the country were still making their way home from work and Americans in the western half of the country. The main stage debates, meanwhile, typically didn’t start until 9:00 p.m. on the East Coast, meaning a much larger audience available to watch the debate.

Instead of the main and “undercard” debate, Democrats appear to be coming to a consensus on the idea of two-night debates where the participants would be selected somewhat randomly so that they would include both high-ranked and low-ranked candidates, thus at least theoretically making it less likely that the lower-ranked candidates would essentially be consigned to that status forever due to being included in a debate that nobody was watching. They also appear to be proposing to include other criteria beyond polling position to determine debate eligibility. These criteria would include how organized candidates were in specific states, although it’s unclear how some of these criteria can be objectively measured.

While this plan is arguably better than the “main” debate and “undercard” idea that the Republicans had, it arguably suffers from some of the same weaknesses. For example, how many people are actually going to watch two nights of debates, especially if the candidates they prefer all end up being in one debate rather than the other. Additionally, it’s unclear if media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, and the other broadcast networks would be willing to give up two nights of prime-time programming for political debates. Finally, to the extent that debate inclusion will be decided based on non-objective criteria this could result in some candidates arguing, with merit that they are being unfairly excluded or consigned to a second-night event that may not end up drawing as much viewership.

As an alternative, media and political pundit Jeff Greenfeld has a different idea:

The only way to do this fairly is to get rid of all the debates. That’s right: No debates! Let’s cancel political Christmas, at least for all of next year.

There is widespread consensus among Democrats that the party’s 2016 approach—a handful of primary debates, two of which were on weekends—did not work. But in that year, there were only a handful of candidates at the outset. The Republicans, by contrast, had 17 contenders, which forced the party to split debates between “serious” contenders (measured by poll numbers) and a “kiddie table” of lesser entrants, including former and sitting senators (Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul) and governors from big states (Rick Perry, George Pataki).

If in fact 25 or 30 Democrats decide to run, the challenge of a rational debate process becomes insurmountable. The DNC, according to the Washington Post, is contemplating going beyond poll numbers—“possibly including staffing, fundraising and number of office locations”—to decide who participates and how. (Historical note: Back in December 2007, perennial is-he-kidding candidate Alan Keyes opened an office in Iowa for the sole purpose of being included in a Republican presidential debate).

But in a field that could include entrants ranging from a former vice president to the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, any process of inclusion will be ludicrous. Perhaps the debates can be segmented by net worth, with a special billionaires’ forum including Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and Howard Schultz. Maybe age could be the measure, with the septuagenarians one night, the Gen Xers another.)

No matter how the field is divided, the prospect of any meaningful exchange of ideas among even seven or eight participants is nonexistent. My memory of the 2016 GOP debates is an endless clamor for the chance to offer a 30-second response to a one-minute answer to a question more or less forgotten by the time the last debater got a chance to speak.

(emphasis mine)

As Greenfeld goes on to note, instead of participating in multi-candidate debates that don’t really accomplish much of anything, candidates would find themselves freed up to participate in different kinds of forums, such as town hall appearances and other processes where candidates have more direct contact with voters than they with journalists. Additionally, such a policy would leave open the possibility of individual networks or other news outlets having their own forums featuring one or more candidates in ways that allow for responses from candidates that last longer than eight minutes. This wouldn’t mean that there wouldn’t be any debates at all. The party can always leave open the option of having such forums as we get closer to the time when voting actually would take place, at which point the field will no doubt winnow down as candidates discover either through a lack of money or a lack of public interest that keeping their campaigns going doesn’t make much sense. At that point, they could use a combination of polling, actual performance in primaries and caucuses that have taken place, and others to determine who participates and who doesn’t. Before that point, though, the kind of multi-candidate affairs that we’ve become familiar with is really just a waste of time so why not give Greenfeld’s idea a try and just say “no” to the idea of early debates? I know I wouldn’t miss them.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Let the candidates create their own media in the early going. They can do town halls, infomercials, or decide among themselves to debate this or that person one-on-one or three or however many. YouTube has plenty of bandwidth. Or let them do a podcast – iTunes will carry it. Let this process play out for a while and at the same time set a fundraising threshold for a more staged debate closer to primary season. If you can’t raise a million from grass roots donors, go away. If you can’t get a million eyeballs (OK, two million) on your YouTube media, go away.

    When the major candidates get down to it, I have a suggestion lifted from one of my wife’s (with some uncredited work from yours truly) books, which involves a species that can instantly and unfailingly tell whether a statement is true or false. So: in the debate you have a small panel of experts. When Candidate A makes a statement of fact he/she can be challenged by any other candidate and the question goes to the panel: lie or truth? Like a challenged ref’s call in football, we go to the tape.

    If nothing else the contrast with Trump’s incessant, unchallenged lying would be telling.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    While it’s frightening that we may be less than a year from debates, Greenfield’s idea that the party and the candidates should give up free publicity for the sake of…Grenfield is unclear what, is the level of savvy and seriousness I expect from POLITICO .

  3. @gVOR08:

    What exactly does a “debate” between up to ten or more candidates accomplish?

  4. SKI says:

    Doug, I think you need a headline writer. Or a new one as, once again, your headline and your piece don’t match.

    Even accepting your, and Greenfeld’s, concept that we shouldn’t have early debates (which I disagree with – see below), there is no actual argument in the piece that having debates themselves was a “mistake” that plagued the GOP in ’16, let alone as a “debate mistake” as the headline claims.
    As for their “debate mistake”, the discussed issue was splitting the field into two groups of candidates based on name recognition (which is what early polling reflects) and having the “undercard” not in prime time – further penalizing those without name recognition. The real issue was inane questions and answers. Let’s be real, the principal “mistake” the GOP made in ’16 was having candidates and voters that didn’t care about facts or reality. When you have spent a couple decades using lies and bigotry, the base of voters you obtain are attracted to lying and bigotry.

    The Democrats plan addresses the “discussed” mistake by having, at least initially, all debates in prime time – allowing all the candidates the initial opportunity to get their message out and giving them a chance to shine. The question of whether they will shine, or can, will depend on the substance of the questions and the answers.

    Even if you are right and few will watch both debates (and let’s be honest, most won’t watch either/any), there is still the opportunity for “earned media” – an answer to go viral.

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  5. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If you can’t get a million eyeballs (OK, two million) on your YouTube media, go away.

    God, that’s a terrible idea…..Running the country and attracting an audience on Youtube or social media sites require two different skill sets.

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  6. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce: Campaigning in any way has little to do with the skill set required to govern. So what’s your point?

  7. @SKI:

    I think my criticism of the GOP’s “main stage” v. “kiddie table” debate plan was rather obvious, and it isn’t really substantively different from the idea of trying to schedule two back-to-back nights of primetime debates, which is what the Democrats seem to be considering. And I make my criticism of that idea pretty clear.

    In both cases, the mistake is precisely the one that Greenfeld points out, namely the very idea of having debates in the early stages of the race, before people even start voting. In that sense, I would argue that both parties are making the same mistake, especially when you’re talking about fields as large as the GOP field in 2016 and what portends to be a large field of Democrats in 2020.

    Also, it’s generally advisable to do more than read the headline of a post.

  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    Given that the Republicans ended up winning everything in 2016, in what sense was their debate strategy a mistake?

    Perhaps the Democrats would have been better off in 2016 with a real competitive primary instead of the apotheosis-of-the-chosen-one strategy they went with.

  9. @Stormy Dragon:

    It isn’t the DNC’s fault that there wasn’t a competitive field in 2016.

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It isn’t the DNC’s fault that there wasn’t a competitive field in 2016.

    According to Donna Brazile, it was.

  11. James Pearce says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t want Pewdiepie to be our next president is my point.

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  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    Greenfeld has a point and no debates maybe the best way to proceed. Let the Dems declare there will be no party sponsored debates till after the 4 initial primaries and caucuses. Whatever the demerits of NH, Iowa, SC and Nevada they do have the benefit of smaller populations, allowing retail politics and geographic compactness (Nevada’s population is essentially Vegas and Reno plus the suburbs of each) again enhancing retail politics. After these 4 states have voted the party can begins sponsoring debates that include the top 3 finishers in each state plus any other candidate polling over 20%. Given that certain candidates will finish among the top three in several if not all the states, the number actual candidates debating will likely be 5 or 6.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    Totally off topic, but fun. Michael Cohen never went to Prague. He said so. McClatchy is reporting there are leaked foreign intelligence intercepts saying Cohen’s phone went to Prague.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    The core problem goes a lot deeper: every Presidential year for a half century has found that more and more a Party’s nominee is based soley on a popular vote. There is no minimum standard any more, so anyone can run. Hell, Sanders isn’t even a Democrat and yet the Bernie Bros are still bitter that the actual Democratic Party didn’t want him. A Party he made clear was beneath him. The biggest mistake the Democrats have made since 2016 is giving in to nasty Uncle Bernie and eliminating the Super Delegates.

  15. Gustopher says:

    The real mistake the Republicans made in 2016 was having 17 candidates who were all obviously horrible. I look forward to the Democrats.

    It might be interesting to sort the candidates into buckets, and have smaller debates that way where the candidates are pursuing the same segments of the pri1mary voters. Corporate Toadies, Progressives, Over 70, Sitting and Former Governors, Too Homely To Be Elected, Book Tour…

    Would aso happily accept costumed debates. Tonight in Iowa, it’s Pirate Night, tomorrow rabbits.

  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Let this process play out for a while and at the same time set a fundraising threshold for a more staged debate closer to primary season.

    Auction off the debate slots with the proceeds going to the DNC congressional campaign warchest?

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  17. al Ameda says:

    I always enjoy Jeff Greenfield’s commentary.

    The only way to do this fairly is to get rid of all the debates. That’s right: No debates! Let’s cancel political Christmas, at least for all of next year.

    I’m not sure anyone would miss it if debates were discontinued.

    Frankly, these days debates exist for those NASCAR-crash-into-the-wall moments, you know, where a candidate says something like: ‘the people of Flint don’t deserve clean safe drinking water,’ or ‘clean coal is our future.’ Well, those kind of statements used to be ‘crash-into-the-wall’ political career killers, but not any more.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @al Ameda: Greenfield wants fair. The candidates and the parties want free exposure. The networks want cheap content. The Party needs to negotiate with all stakeholders and come up with a format that the candidates and networks accept and at least appears fair. I’m sure there will be a lot of screaming and hollering, and I’ll be one of the first to bitch about more stupid debates, but it seems to me the Dems have come up with a reasonable plan given the difficult circumstances.

  19. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Running the country and attracting an audience on Youtube or social media sites require two different skill sets.”

    Unlike running the country and campaigning for office, which require exactly the same skill sets. Is that what you’re saying? Because it sounds like your usual level of sophisticated thinking.

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  20. wr says:

    @James Pearce: ” I don’t want Pewdiepie to be our next president is my point.”

    Well, yeah. It’s manifestly obvious to anyone who reads your posts that the only one you want for president is Trump.

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  21. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    It’s manifestly obvious to anyone who reads your posts that the only one you want for president is Trump.

    I guess that explains why I’m so bitter about Hillary’s loss.

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  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I don’t think that his comment was a criticism of you as much as it is an observation that the likelihood of the political stakeholders in the primary selection system will buy in is probably in the negative numbers. From that standpoint, Greenfield’s comment is much like the “what we really need is a Centrist Third Party” drivelfests–that you typically deride as being unrealistic and therefore stupid.

    Now, if you should decide to take my comment as an attack on your support of Greenfield’s idea, go right ahead, I’ve no dog in this fight.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    the GOP’s “main stage” v. “kiddie table”…it isn’t really substantively different from the idea of trying to schedule two back-to-back nights of primetime debates, which is what the Democrats seem to be considering.

    I’m inclined to disagree. I think that dividing the candidates into two “classes”–“significant/important/viable” and “not”–and then scheduling the debates for the “nots” at times when people were not likely to be available to watch them is different from what the Democrats are proposing in significant ways. While I will agree that the GOP leadership and leading candidates capitalized on the class warfare themes that drive Conservative political philosophy and libertarian “sucks to be you” attitudes about balance and level playing fields, I see trying to select candidates at least partially randomly (I personally would go for total randomness, but…) and trying to avoid having the party rank candidates into “winners” and “losers” represents a significantly different approach.

    But then again, I’m not trying to argue that the debates are a waste of time, either.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: Wow! You’ve been bitter about Hillary’s loss? I didn’t see that at all. Seriously! No idea whatsoever.

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  25. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @gVOR08:

    Campaigning in any way has little to do with the skill set required to govern. So what’s your point?

    They are different skill sets, but I do agree with James Pearce that Youtube can be a dangerous tool in the hands of demagogues and bad politicians, specially because people confuses the “social” of social media with friendships.
    (Note the “Youtube Caucus” of Brazilian Congress – there were lots of demagogues of the worst kind that were elected using Youtube).

    @SKI:

    Even accepting your, and Greenfeld’s, concept that we shouldn’t have early debates (which I disagree with – see below), there is no actual argument in the piece that having debates themselves was a “mistake” that plagued the GOP in ’16, let alone as a “debate mistake” as the headline claims.

    Exactly. Debates force candidates to answer tough questions, that can’t be done when the candidate is meeting friendly audiences on Youtube or MSNBC. If the Republican candidates were discussing the size of their Weiners during the debates the problem is with the candidates and the voters, not with the format.

  26. Perhaps my argument is incomplete — the post was getting longish and I didn’t want to go too far into the depths on the GOP in 2016 — but I think it’s clear that the mistake in both respects is trying to stage these multi-candidate debates. If we learned anything from the 2016 Republican race, it’s that they are entirely unhelpful, that they tend to benefit candidates who can come up with quick, snappy responses that went viral on cable news and social media, and that they tended to be unfair to candidates who were trailing in polls that, given the fact they were so early, were largely meaningless.

    We saw the same thing among Republicans in 2012 when candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain walked away debates as perceived “winners” while candidates who had resumes that made them far more qualified candidates for President, such as Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson, barely got any screen time at all and, because they were not well-suited to the shoot-from-the-hip style that was considered a “success” in the environment of these so-called “debates,” very little news coverage after those debates.

    Additionally, I must disagree with those who seem to shove all 17 of the Republican candidates in 2016 into the same category as Trump. While you may have disagreed with their ideas, several of these candidates were serious men and women with serious ideas who found themselves competing in an environment where being a media clown like Trump counted for more among voters and the media than being an experienced politician with serious ideas. Perhaps, if the GOP had forgone the whole idea of having multi-candidate debates as early as August of the year before the election (and note that the Democratic plan calls for debates beginning in July 2019), these candidates might have found other ways to get voter attention and Trump would have been deprived of at least one avenue for free media. This is all untestable alternate history, of course, but I’d submit there’s no way it could have been worse.

  27. Paine says:

    One thing the 2016 repubs did that I hope the dems avoid is putting the candidates on the debate stage in some sort of order based on polling numbers (with the candidate with the highest polling numbers in the middle with the rest cascading to his left and right; but who knows, perhaps that was at the insistence of the Trump campaign). Once a candidate meets the minimum threshold to be on the stage they should be treated as equals, with some sort of random determination of place on the stage.

  28. @Paine:

    Polling at least has the advantage of being a somewhat objective measure of the level of support that a candidate has, and I can see the justification for giving candidates who are leading the field more attention than the guys and gals polling at 2% or below. Polling isn’t perfect, though, and early polling is largely a popularity contest, so I can see why some might object to it playing as big a role as it has in previous debate preparation. Democrats propose to get around that problem by looking at other criteria, but some of those are arguably not entirely objective so it’s hard to see what the standard would be for something like having a “campaign operation” in a sufficient number of states or fundraising success.

    In any event, the problem with having no standard at all as you seem to suggest is that you end up with an incredibly crowded debate stage, and that doesn’t benefit anyone.

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    You’ve been bitter about Hillary’s loss? I didn’t see that at all.

    Perhaps, then, you see the irony of being so obviously bitter and yet still being accused of being a Trump supporter.

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Note the “Youtube Caucus” of Brazilian Congress – there were lots of demagogues of the worst kind that were elected using Youtube

    This is why I’m so glad you comment here, dude.

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  30. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Wow! You’ve been bitter about Hillary’s loss? I didn’t see that at all. Seriously! No idea whatsoever.

    Pierce was not bitter about Hillary’s loss. He is bitter than Hillary, the candidate sold as the perfect politician by Liberal pundits, managed to lose to an orange fascist.

    @Doug Mataconis:.

    If we learned anything from the 2016 Republican race, it’s that they are entirely unhelpful, that they tend to benefit candidates who can come up with quick, snappy responses that went viral on cable news and social media, and that they tended to be unfair to candidates who were trailing in polls that, given the fact they were so early, were largely meaningless.

    Any visual medium, including rallies and Youtube, is going to benefit candidates that can give quick, snappy responses. But at least during debates candidates can have to answer tough questions from real journalists. There were lots of uncomfortable moments for candidates during these debates, and that’s good.

    @James Pearce:

    This is why I’m so glad you comment here, dude.

    Thanks, dude. 😉

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  31. @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    at least during debates candidates can have to answer tough questions from real journalists.

    Because of the number of candidates on the stage in the early stage debates in the Republican race, candidates were typically given two minutes or less to answer a question. That’s hardly enough time to provide a real answer to a complicated public policy question. Some moderators did a better job at this than others — Jake Tapper at CNN stands out as one of the best moderators during that cycle, for example — but generally speaking most of the time the debate format benefited the candidates able to come up with simplistic slogans and talking points from their stump speeches. It wasn’t until there were a smaller number of candidates on the stage that they actually started being something that I would argue was helpful for voters. This is one reason why the Democratic debates were generally better on substance because even when irrelevant candidates like James Webb, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee were on the stage there was more time for candidates to prove themselves and, more importantly, to actually debate things back and forth between themselves

    lots of uncomfortable moments for candidates during these debates, and that’s good.

    Most of those uncomfortable moments consisted of things like Trump flinging insults at people or candidates attacking each other on irrelevant issues.

  32. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Because of the number of candidates on the stage in the early stage debates in the Republican race, candidates were typically given two minutes or less to answer a question. That’s hardly enough time to provide a real answer to a complicated public policy question. Some moderators did a better job at this than others

    Nah. The first Democratic Debates of 2008 had even Kucinich and Mike Gravel, and they were pretty substantive. The problem of 2016 were the GOP voters and candidates.

  33. Teve says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: when Trump mocked Serge kovaleski’s disability on national TV, and then lied and said he didn’t know the guy was disabled, when he’s known kovaleski for years, that would have been the end of it. If Republican voters weren’t shitty people.

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  34. The first debates on the Democratic side in 2008 had a much smaller number of candidates than the early debates in the GOP in 2016.

    And as for the rest of your comment, I refer you to my comment above.

  35. James Pearce says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    He is bitter than Hillary, the candidate sold as the perfect politician by Liberal pundits, managed to lose to an orange fascist.

    Boom. An apt summary.

    (PS. The more I read about the Bolsanos….yikes.)

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  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: Everything and anything becomes a dangerous tool in the hands of demagogues and bad politicians; it’s built into the nature of demagoguery. Political systems fail as the voters fail to recognize and reject the demagogues and bad politicians. 2016 represents a massive failure by the US voters–Republicans particularly, in that they recognized that they were supporting a demagogue and didn’t care.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “these candidates were serious men and women with serious ideas”

    Which is why they went with “I’ll build a better wall than Trump” and played to being superior in every facet of Trumpiness than he was because nothing says “serious ideas” better.

    I do agree that it probably couldn’t have been worse, though. As I said above, a massive failure, by Republican voters in particular.

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce:

    Perhaps, then, you see the irony of being so obviously bitter

    Not even Andre bought that, although you edited his quote carefully, well done. (Or maybe you truly don’t understand that all of what you say carries meaning out to the audience.)

  39. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    early polling is largely a popularity contest,

    A nitpick: All polling is a popularity contest. It is exactly what it is designed to do.

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  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Perhaps if you had said “I was bitter about Hillary being the candidate” I would have understood you more clearly. Alas, that would have negated the part about the irony of being tagged as a Trump supporter. Some days there’s just no winning (although you might have tried deflecting the Trump supporting claim by noting that almost no rabid Trumpies were sad that Hillary was the candidate, that could have supported your claim).

    BTW, I don’t think you’re a Trump supporter. I think you just like contradicting anything that anyone says. Sort of like a middle school student or an older kid who doesn’t fit in his high school but hasn’t matured enough to cope with that.

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  41. the Q says:

    “……The biggest mistake the Democrats have made since 2016 is giving in to nasty Uncle Bernie and eliminating the Super Delegates…..”

    Another delusional comment by a Hillary slurper. The biggest mistake the Dems made in history was running the most disliked, mistrusted and least likable candidate in its modern history.

    With Hillary OFF the ballot in November, the Dems had a historic midterm run in the House with 40 seats and wins in the OC, Texas and Oklahoma…not exactly hotbeds of democratic socialism.

    Its galling to real “liberals” that the only thing stopping in 2016 a dem/soc candidate from being elected President was fellow moderate Hillary-ites. Do any of you really think Bernie would have lost all 4 midwest states with his pro union, anti trade pact policies?

    Even after the disastrous HRC candidacy has been dead and buried for two years, her insufferable supporters still can’t admit the obvious flaws and liabilities foisted upon the Dem by the a priori rigged system of a huge corporate war chest and a biased DNC chair.

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  42. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The first debates on the Democratic side in 2008 had a much smaller number of candidates than the early debates in the GOP in 2016.

    Ten against seven. But then even Dennis Kucinich could be more substantive than the stalwarts of the GOP.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Everything and anything becomes a dangerous tool in the hands of demagogues and bad politicians; it’s built into the nature of demagoguery.

    Everything can. But don’t expect that politicians that spend too much time on social media to be good politicians. And it makes no sense to complain about the format where candidates are supposed to answer questions from other candidates and from Jake Tapper or Chris Wallace and then praise social media, where the candidates have full control of their message.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Perhaps if you had said “I was bitter about Hillary being the candidate” I would have understood you more clearly.

    I think that’s more complicated. Many people on the left are seeing center-left parties losing election after election(Not only in the US), and they think that part of the problem is that the left in general does not care to go after the half of the voters that happens to have XY chromosomes. It’s difficult to win elections without half of the electorate.

    Hillary Clinton was a huge symbol of that. She was sold as the perfect politician that never got the nomination because the Democratic Party was too misogynistic, but then she managed to lose to guy that said that he grabbed woman by their genitalia.

    I think that many people are confused, but they don’t like seeing left-of-center and center-left parties losing space to the far right and they think that doing things like demonizing half of the voters will have inevitably this type of result.

    @James Pearce:

    (PS. The more I read about the Bolsanos….yikes.)

    Bolsonaro is interesting that he caters to a pretty phony notion of masculinity(I always see trucks with bumper stickers for him), with finger guns, but that was enough for him to win. I have more fear of the Evangelical Churches than of Bolsonaro, but I don’t think that the left will learn the lessons of his victory(And yes, his opponent began to gain in the polls when the attacks against Bolsonaro were about policy and economics, not culture).

  43. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The first debates on the Democratic side in 2008 had a much smaller number of candidates than the early debates in the GOP in 2016.

    Ten against seven. But then even Dennis Kucinich could be more substantive than the stalwarts of the GOP.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Everything and anything becomes a dangerous tool in the hands of demagogues and bad politicians; it’s built into the nature of demagoguery.

    Everything can. But don’t expect that politicians that spend too much time on social media to be good politicians. And it makes no sense to complain about the format where candidates are supposed to answer questions from other candidates and from Jake Tapper or Chris Wallace and then praise social media, where the candidates have full control of their message.

  44. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Perhaps if you had said “I was bitter about Hillary being the candidate” I would have understood you more clearly.

    I think that’s more complicated. Many people on the left are seeing center-left parties losing election after election(Not only in the US), and they think that part of the problem is that the left in general does not care to go after the half of the voters that happens to have XY chromosomes. It’s difficult to win elections without half of the electorate.

    Hillary Clinton was a huge symbol of that. She was sold as the perfect politician that never got the nomination because the Democratic Party was too misogynistic, but then she managed to lose to guy that said that he grabbed woman by their genitalia.

    I think that many people are confused, but they don’t like seeing left-of-center and center-left parties losing space to the far right and they think that doing things like demonizing half of the voters will have inevitably this type of result.

    @James Pearce:

    (PS. The more I read about the Bolsanos….yikes.)

    Bolsonaro is interesting that he caters to a pretty phony notion of masculinity(I always see trucks with bumper stickers for him), with finger guns, but that was enough for him to win. I have more fear of the Evangelical Churches than of Bolsonaro, but I don’t think that the left will learn the lessons of his victory(And yes, his opponent began to gain in the polls when the attacks against Bolsonaro were about policy and economics, not culture).

  45. wr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “(Or maybe you truly don’t understand that all of what you say carries meaning out to the audience.)”

    Perhaps we might take a moment to appreciate the irony in the man who insists that writing is a craft so mechanical that anyone can write as well as Shakespeare if they just do a couple extra drafts is himself incapable of composing a single sentence that conveys what he insists is his true meaning.

  46. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    Perhaps we might take a moment to appreciate the irony in the man who insists that writing is a craft so mechanical that anyone can write as well as Shakespeare if they just do a couple extra drafts is himself incapable of composing a single sentence that conveys what he insists is his true meaning.

    You come at me with Shakespeare, a man so ordinary that people doubt his authorship?

    Shakespeare wasn’t a wizard. He was an actor, thirsty for what we now call “content,” and thanks to the Folios –collected after his death, without his or his heirs’ permission– we know he was quite a diligent one.

    Edward De Vere may have been the prototypical Writer God, opening his veins and bleeding on the page for us, but he didn’t write Romeo and Juliet. The actor did.