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Editorial: Democrats aren’t getting a fair shake

Last modified: 8/27/2015 12:32:02 AM
So far this presidential primary season, the Republican Party has dominated news coverage. Its contest has featured 17 candidates, the breathtaking ascendancy of Donald Trump and plenty of vitriol toward illegal immigrants.

Where have the Democrats been during all of this?

Hillary Clinton has continued her businesslike trod across early primary states, raising tons of money while repeatedly trying to put an end to questions about her email account as secretary of state. Bernie Sanders has come close to igniting flames among the faithful. Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb have made good-faith efforts to rise in the polls.

The party seems to have gone out of its way to ensure a drama-free primary. But by sharply limiting the debate schedule and attempting to unify around Clinton, Democrats may have harmed themselves more than they realize. As pointed out by former state senator Peter Burling and former executive councilor Dudley Dudley in a Monitor op-ed on Tuesday, that schedule means that important conversations on the left – about income inequality, affordable education, systemic racism – are being drowned out by arguments over the use of the term “anchor baby.”

Put simply, the Democrats could use a little more drama and discussion. And having a single debate in New Hampshire, a mere six days before Christmas, isn’t the way to do that.

Look at the situation more broadly. The Clinton email story (and her less-than-artful attempts to defuse it) is not going away. Sanders isn’t going to stop being a democratic socialist. Republicans aren’t going to fade gently into the background. The time has come for everyone in the Democratic Party to rethink their primary strategy.

Add debates. Specifically, add debates in New Hampshire. The voters deserve to hear about the party’s ideas and issues. The Republican Party scheduled twice as many debates as the Democrats, which is shameful given the magnitude of the challenges the country faces.

And more top-tier Democrats should rethink their decisions to stay out of the race.

Vice President Joe Biden has been mulling a run. There has even been chatter about former vice president Al Gore kicking the tires of a candidacy. Perhaps Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren could join them both.

Democrats want choices, both of candidates and of the ideas they offer.

More discussions can only clarify the race, both in terms of proposals and personalities. Watching Clinton talk with Black Lives Matter protesters backstage at a recent campaign event, for example, was uncomfortable yet revelatory. The candidate was no-nonsense, aggressive and quick on her feet. In other words, nothing like the Hillary peddled by her campaign for public consumption.

There is still time for Democrats to have a vibrant, entertaining, meaningful primary. The party can – and should – demand a wider choice of candidates forcefully debating their ideas in a series of high-profile debates. But time is running out.


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