For Many Democrats, Six Primary Season Debates 'Is Just Not Enough'

As 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls gather in California for their second nationally televised debate on Wednesday evening, a group of Democrats will rally outside the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington, D.C., calling for more debates during the primary race.

As it currently stands, the DNC has scheduled just six debates during the primary season, only four of which will take place before the Iowa caucuses in February. Furthermore, the Committee has promised to disinvite candidates who participate in “non-sanctioned” debates.

“Without more Democratic debates, the campaign will be dominated for months by Republican extremism, immigrant-bashing, and fear-mongering on topics from war and peace to women’s reproductive rights, with major issues not even addressed.”
—RootsAction

While the DNC sanctioned six debates in both 2004 and 2008, candidates were allowed to participate in events hosted by media outlets or universities, without repercussion. According to FiveThirtyEight, candidates ultimately attended 15 debates in 2004 and 25 in 2008.

Led by the nonpartisan and grassroots group Allow Debate, some Democrats are denouncing this year’s “exclusivity clause” as “unprecedented and undemocratic”—not to mention politically un-savvy. 

“Tens of millions of people are only seeing the Republican message, while we wait for the Democrats to debate,” Allow Debate founder Ben Doernberg told Boston.com on Wednesday.

“Six debates is maybe two questions on climate change, maybe three,” Doernberg added to ABC News. “It is just not enough if you care deeply about an issue and want to understand where the candidates differ.”

“I think every Democratic campaign and the DNC should have to explain why we are ceding the discussion and attention to the Republicans by refusing to the kind of robust debate schedule we’ve always had,” Martin O’Malley’s campaign manager Dave Hamrick said in a statement to Politico.

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