Democratic National Committee Needs to Change Debate Format

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Democratic National Committee Needs to Change Debate Format

The twenty Democratic candidates that appeared in the first debate in Miami.

The twenty Democratic candidates that appeared in the first debate in Miami.

The twenty Democratic candidates that appeared in the first debate in Miami.

The twenty Democratic candidates that appeared in the first debate in Miami.

Isabella Rocha, Editor

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With a presidential election approaching and many Democratic candidates running to beat Donald Trump, the Democratic National Committee has begun holding debates for voters to be more informed about the candidates running. There have been three debates so far, one on June 26th and 27th in Miami, one on July 30th and 31st in Detroit, and one on September 12th in Houston. The first two debates featured twenty candidates, with ten on each night, and the third had the top ten candidates on the same night. The debates had candidates answering questions on healthcare, gun violence, climate change, the economy, immigration, and much more. The debates allow voters to get a glimpse at what voters stand for, but the DNC needs to change how these debates are run.

It appears that the DNC already has its candidates picked out. There are certain candidates that are asked more questions more than others, such as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. This could be a result of these candidates being higher in the poll than others, but it seems as though the moderators of debates should be asking the lower-tiered candidates since they are not covered as much as the media as the top-tiered candidates. For example, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock did not qualify for the first or third debates but appeared in the second one on the first night. During the debate, Bullock spoke for ten minutes and forty-four seconds. Although he spoke for the fourth-longest time, he was not present in the other debates, such as Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, who have each had high speaking times in all three debates. During the first debate, Andrew Yang claims that his microphone was turned off at some points, preventing him from joining the conversation when he wanted to. The DNC forces voters to hear from the candidates that are already in the top and silences those who aren’t doing as well in the polls. However, the DNC should be giving more attention to those lower-tiered candidates because they aren’t being covered by the media as much as higher polling candidates, like Bernie Sanders.

The questions in the debate are also set up to get the candidates fighting with each other, mainly in the first two debates. Questions were worded so that the candidate being asked would have to respond to something another candidate had said about them or one of their plans. For example, in the second debate, when asking a question to Bernie Sanders, the moderator began with “Congressman Delaney just referred to [Medicare for All] as bad policy and previously he’s called the idea ‘political suicide’ that will just get President Trump reelected” in order to get Sanders to fight with John Delaney. The moderator could have simply asked Sanders to explain how to get more people on board with his Medicare for All plan, but instead chose to ask it in a way that would cause a fight with the candidates. Many of the questions for the second debate were set up in this format.

The media also influences the way the debates are run. As previously established, speaking times for candidates depend on how well they’re doing in the polls. This is also reinforced through the media’s coverage of the presidential election. The media focuses more on the well-known candidates, causing the lesser-known ones to be forgotten about, and some voters don’t even realize they’re running until they appear on the debate stage. With the number of articles focusing on Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders, the media is making it seem as though these are the only candidates. And while they may currently have the best odds at being the Democratic nominee, there are some candidates who have the potential to be better than the top three candidates. The media’s excessive coverage on the higher polling candidates makes voters believe that the Democratic nominee is already chosen, or that these candidates are the only ones in the race, neither of which is true.

Simply put, the DNC needs to revise how these debates are run. More time needs to be given to the candidates that the media isn’t covering as much, or that people haven’t heard a lot about. The moderators also need to stop setting up questions that will cause the candidates to attack each other. It’s understandable that the cable networks that run these debates want their ratings to be up, but these debates aren’t some reality TV show. Voters need to be able to hear from all the candidates in order to pick the best one to represent the Democratic party in 2020, and they can’t do that if not all the candidates are heard from.

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