Democratic presidential primary candidates are aghast at the swift change in the rules that regulate which hopefuls may take the debate stage. Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair, is facing friendly fire after announcing that contestants now must garner 2% support in four early voting states — such as Iowa and New Hampshire — or in national polls and 130,000 unique donors to their campaign.
The change in criteria also includes adding 400 unique donors from at least 20 states in an effort to determine the best grassroots candidates in the field. This latest ploy to winnow the field to whomever the DNC already has in mind is double the original qualifications for the first two debates.
Perez recently made the rounds of cable news shows, attempting to quash the rumblings of uprising from lagging candidates, who are basically everyone but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden:
“What we’ve set up … is a structure where we want to give everyone a fair shake to communicate their vision to the American people. The proof is in the pudding.”
But not everyone is buying Perez’s limiting of “fair shake,” and the backlash has him on the defensive as candidates scramble to meet the latest demands by the third debate this September.
The Sheep Are Suspicious of the Shepherd
On the heels of Perez’s announcement, late-to-the-party-goers expressed outright disdain for the decision. And rightly so: In this early stage, whacking an emergent and potentially viable candidate seems to favor blatantly the few with national name recognition. And that’s frankly the rapidly aging, pasty white men, Biden and Sanders, who enjoy a hefty lead in the polls.
This ploy hasn’t gone unnoticed by Democratic campaign operatives. Jess Morales Rocketto, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, grumped, “It’s easy to see that the debates in the fall are going to be a bunch of white men .…”
Perez insisted he spoke to “a ton of people” for input before adding another round of seemingly impossible hurdles, but his flock is smelling an odorous wolf in its midst. Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) put his concerns in writing to the DNC, asking just who the “ton of people” are – or is this just another case of backdoor dealing in the party? Delaney demands to know names and thought processes, if the decision to change the rules was unanimous, and if the DNC was “prioritizing certain candidates – or attributes of certain candidates — in formulation of the Criteria.”
Oh, yes, “criteria” is capitalized in the missive for maximum word shouting.
Delaney told reporters, “Right now, we live in a country where half the people can’t afford basic necessities like their rent, their food, their utilities. I’m running for those people. It doesn’t seem like they’re probably contributing to a lot of political candidates, so why is their voice not relevant?”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who jumps on everyone’s bandwagon and who is on the bubble of making the cut for June, echoed the sentiments of Delaney: “I think it’s random and inaccurate, but it’s their choice. I don’t think it’s a measure of success. I don’t think it’s a measure of electability.”
And that leaves us to those candidates losing traction and desperately attempting to gain a healthy number of small individual donors. One man who seems to be in uncontrollable hysterics is the self-declared “born for it” Beto O’Rourke. His fundraising team has sent daily emails begging for the almighty $1 donation so he can make the stage in the critical November debate. They already have the single contributors for the summer debates yet ominously warn things are apt to change:
“Already, more than 130,000 of you have stepped up to contribute (thank you!). But we have no idea what the DNC will require for the debate in November, and we need to start preparing right now.”
But Beto’s polling numbers are in the swirling bowl, and that may take him out before his grassroots effort epically falters and stalls out.
Line-up for the First Debate
With just a few weeks until the first debate June 26-27 in Miami, FL, the sure things are former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, activist and spiritual psychotherapist Marianne Williamson, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Yes, psychic guru and inspirational speaker Williamson is slated for a podium slot in the Sunshine State. Why is it so damn hard for the likes of seasoned political hacks Delaney and Gillibrand to make the cut?
Is it wise for the Democratic National Committee to disallow the voices of half the field to focus on the number of grassroots supporters this early in the ultimate showdown? Should the party faithful demand, as Delaney has, full transparency into the process, or just go with damming the flow? The last time they bent to the will of the elite few in the hallowed halls of the DNC, the fix was in: Hillary advanced and Trump rolled into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
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