The fate of the Democratic debate in New Hampshire depends on the participation of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and right now, his campaign is acting like a frontrunner who is trying to dodge a debate.
The New Hampshire Democratic debate looked like a dream come true for voters. Democrats were finally going to get a debate on a weeknight in prime time co-moderated by Rachel Maddow. Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley are willing to do the debate. The Sanders campaign had complained for months about the lack of debates. As long as all three Democratic candidates agreed to participate in the debate, there was nothing that the DNC could do to stop it from happening.
It looked like everything was ready to go until Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver issued a statement saying that Sen. Sanders wouldn’t participate unless the debate was sanctioned by the DNC. Weaver said, “DNC has said this would be an unsanctioned debate so we would not want to jeopardize our ability to participate in future debates. We think there should be at least three or four more debates following the ones that are currently scheduled. We will be working with the DNC and other campaigns to schedule additional debates.”
The problem with the Sanders campaign’s excuse is that it is total BS.
There are only three Democratic presidential candidates. If all three candidates participate in a debate, the DNC can’t sanction everyone. If the three campaigns work together, voters get another debate. If they don’t, the New Hampshire debate won’t happen.
During a recent interview with Rachel Maddow, Sen. Sanders stressed the need for more debates, “Well, look, you know, when the Republicans do primetime debates they get 20 million, 25 million people watching it. When we have debates, the one here in Iowa was literally on the night of a huge football game. It was Iowa State versus the University of Iowa. Probably the worst time that you could possibly schedule a debate. If we want to win in November, it is important that the American people hear our ideas. And debates are one way that millions of people can hear our ideas and hear the differences between the candidates. So, I think we have got to do a lot better than that.”
The Sanders campaign is dodging the debate because they are leading in New Hampshire. The Sanders campaign doesn’t want a debate between Iowa and New Hampshire. If Hillary Clinton wins Iowa, the last thing that the Sanders campaign needs is to give her a chance to build more momentum heading into New Hampshire. If Sanders wins Iowa, he has nothing to gain and everything to lose by debating in New Hampshire.
Forget the sanctioning excuse that Jeff Weaver used, the truth is that the Sanders campaign may want more debates, but they have nothing to gain by participating in this New Hampshire debate at that time.
The decision not to participate in the debate is not some great moral failing. It is how all frontrunners behave. Candidates who are leading want fewer debates. The degree to which a candidate wants to debate is directly related to their standing in the polls.
Bernie Sanders is running a campaign that is supposed to be about returning power to the people. Sanders has the opportunity to take the power away from the DNC by agreeing to participate in this vote.
Sen. Sanders, the people want this debate, and it is your obligation to give the voters the debate that they deserve.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association