For the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sanctioned 26 debates. For the 2016 primaries, it has sanctioned six. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, has stood firmly by her decision to allow only six official Democratic debates, despite criticism she has received from candidates, party officials (including two vice chairs) and Democratic voters alike.
In fact, just recently, at a party convention in New Hampshire, Schultz was heckled by Democratic voters demanding more debates. Her go-to response to such appeals is that she truly believes that there are a sufficient number of debates for the candidates to spread their ideas, and that they have other platforms they can use to gain exposure.
The problem is Schultz has blocked many of those platforms. Along with the debate schedule, she announced that any candidate who participates in a debate not sanctioned by the DNC will be barred from participating in future debates. As former Maryland governor and Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley pointed out, that’s not very democratic of the Democratic party.
Schultz’s actions are especially troubling because she was the co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. That is a conflict of interest worthy enough for Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down as chairwoman of the DNC, regardless of her draconian debate restrictions.
Schultz has repeatedly asserted that she is not partial toward any particular candidate, and that her only goal is to get a Democrat in the White House in 2016. Her words hold very little weight when put against her actions. Politico reported that Clinton aides lobbied Schulz to limit the number of debates, and thus, limit the amount of un-choreographed exposure Clinton receives. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Schultz petitioning her to increase the number of debates. His petition garnered 90,000 signatures. But Schultz refused to consider Sanders’ request.
It is common knowledge among political insiders – and within the Clinton campaign – that Clinton’s stale debate performances in 2008 lost her the primary. Those debates allowed the then-unknown Sen. Obama to gain national recognition and defeat Clinton (juggernaut as she was), who seemed distant and cold next to the charismatic young senator.
Schultz has already fallen out of favor with many top Democrats, including President Obama. Politico reported that the President and Democratic insiders believe that Schultz has used her power as DNC chair to further her own political status. For example, she is infamous for combining Democratic fundraisers with her own personal fundraisers. (She is continuing to build a war chest for future House campaigns.)
The pleas of Democratic voters to increase the number of debates have fallen on deaf ears. Schultz has made a conscious decision to ignore her party’s candidates and constituents.
This has far-reaching consequences, especially for millennial voters. Only 21.5 percent of registered voters ages 18-29 voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Less than half voted in the 2012 elections. Those numbers are abysmal; young people — America’s newest voters — are not exercising their democratic rights. Many millennials have become disillusioned by the political process. It’s not that they don’t care or are ill-informed about the issues — it’s that they feel as if the American political process does not empower everyday people.
A recent Chegg Media Center poll revealed that Bernie Sanders dominates Clinton when it comes to college students — 59 percent support him, while 18 percent support Clinton. Yet, the voter turnout numbers show that very few of those college students will actually vote in the primaries. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s efforts to rig the Democratic primaries serves only to confirm young voters’ cynicism. Voters will naturally become apathetic if they are led to believe that one candidate has already been anointed as the nominee.
Schultz has failed as the leader of the DNC. The fact that she has worked closely with Clinton in the past alone warrants her removal from the chair; her handling of the primaries disqualifies her even further. If America wishes to see its young people become engaged in the electoral process, it must censure this kind of dishonest establishment politics.