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Our Turn: Let the Democratic candidates debate

Last modified: 8/25/2015 12:22:32 AM
While the bulk of political reporting right now seems obsessed with the ups and downs of Donald Trump’s blather and hairdo, the substance of the critically important primary race among five Democrats goes forward pretty much under the radar.

Little is said about the exchange of ideas that is going on among the Democrats, who are at this moment sharing more constructive thinking about the state of our nation than all the GOP put together.

The presently authoritarian attitude of the national Democratic Party is one of the reasons why this is happening. By adopting a debate schedule and rulebook that is essentially designed to control the behavior of the candidates rather than showcase their personal strengths and political ideas, the Democratic hierarchy has allowed attention to stay focused on the “ideas” of men like Trump and his sycophants.

Democrats could be having early debates in Iowa and New Hampshire, debates in which issues like the impact of income inequality on our economy or the importance of debt-free education are fully and thoughtfully discussed. Instead, Iowa is to have one debate in November, and then, after that, the one in New Hampshire is scheduled to happen six days before Christmas. Unlike every other primary year, nothing is scheduled between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. That is both a violation of the process we have followed for decades and an insult to New Hampshire Democratic voters.

There is almost unanimous agreement among New Hampshire Democrats that there should be an earlier debate in New Hampshire, to give New Hampshire voters a greater chance to weigh the merits of their various candidates. There may be less agreement about this next point, but it does seems to the authors of this op-ed that all the Democratic candidates stand to win if there are more debates slated earlier in the fall. And it seems obvious as well that there should be a Granite State debate after the Iowa caucus night, when winners could cement their victory and others might try to rearrange the order of things.

The Democratic leadership, whatever that is, should immediately rethink, and then reschedule. And they should get rid of their rules that penalize Democratic candidates who don’t do exactly what they are told by the big wigs in Washington.

(Peter Burling is a former New Hampshire House Democratic leader and state senator. Dudley Dudley is a former member of the New Hampshire House and Executive Council.)


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