Election 2020

Nine Democratic Candidates Petition DNC to Change Debate Qualifications

Nine Democratic Candidates Petition DNC to Change Debate Qualifications
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, speaks as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Hill has obtained a copy of a memo sent to the Democratic National Committee petitioning the DNC to change qualifications for upcoming debates in January and February.

The effort is being led by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and was signed by all the major candidates — Biden, Buttigieg, Warren, and Sanders — and also Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang.

“The escalating thresholds over the past few months have unnecessarily and artificially narrowed what started as the strongest and most diverse Democratic field in history before voters have had a chance to be heard,” the candidates said in the memo, which was obtained by The Hill.

“As a result, candidates who have proven both their viability and their commitment to the Democratic Party are being prematurely cut out of the nominating contest before many voters have even tuned in — much less made their decision about whom to support.”

What does “viability” mean? If you can’t raise money and are at close to zero in the polls, how does that make you a “viable” presidential candidate?

Well, obviously, if you’re the right color or sex…presto! Viability.

The qualifications for the upcoming debate in Los Angeles seem reasonable for a group that’s been campaigning for six months.

To have qualified for the December debate, scheduled for Dec. 19, candidates had to amass the support of at least 200,000 unique donors and register at least 4 percent support in four qualifying polls or at least 6 percent support in two approved early voting state polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.

Billionaire Steyer and millionaire Yang still had yet to attract 200,000 unique donors, although it’s easier when you have money to burn like that. But it’s not a foregone conclusion that having a lot of money automatically leads to “viability.” You must have something that money can’t buy: ideas and the talent to promote them.

Did it ever occur to these minor candidates that the reason they’re not getting any traction is because their ideas are not popular? Is it possible that there’s something besides racism or sexism that prevents these extremely mediocre politicians from vaulting into serious consideration for the highest office in the land?

It won’t matter. The DNC isn’t budging on the qualifications question.


“The DNC has led a fair and transparent process and even told campaigns almost a year ago that the qualification criteria would go up later in the year — not one campaign objected. The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates. Our qualification criteria is extremely low and reflects where we are in the race. Once voting starts in February, our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate. We’re proud to have given candidates so many opportunities to get their message across, and will continue to have fair criteria that reflects each point in the race.”

Another DNC official said that “multiple campaigns have privately signaled to the DNC their frustration with the large debate stage and asked them to hold the line.”

Racism? Sexism? How about incompetence and mediocrity? The truth may be hard to take but the DNC doesn’t have to indulge the fantasies of those who want to play the race card with their own party.