An open letter to the DNC: Let them debate

A limit on primary debates hurts the party, political discourse


Published:

We – New Hampshire Democrats supportive of an open and democratic debate process that transcends our loyalty to any one presidential primary candidate — respectfully urge the Democratic National Committee to remove the penalty for candidates who would participate in more than the six DNC-sanctioned debates.

This unjust rule, and the harsh punishment it embodies, is putting a chill on fundamental freedoms of political speech and a free press. Many of us
have heard directly from media outlets here, in New Hampshire, and beyond that the DNC’s rule casts a long shadow and has stifled would-be conveners of debate amongst press and educational organizations in the Granite State.

Why do we need debate? Presently the airwaves have been monopolized by some Republican candidates who promote mass deportations and stripping the constitutional birthrights of children — ideas history warns are a slippery slope to devastation. Candidates espousing scapegoating and mass violations of human rights have startlingly dominated polls and press coverage for the entire election season to date.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party fiddles while the nation’s political discourse burns. 

We are not scheduled to hold our first debate until mid-October, and, as a result, we daily cede the national conversation by barring our candidates from sharing a stage to present their alternative vision for the nation, a vision that plays to our better angels, not our worst demons.

Further, the DNC has relegated the sole New Hampshire debate to the Saturday before Christmas at the height of the holiday season and at the lowest point of voters’ attention, an unprecedented break from the cherished tradition of multiple, vigorous early nominating state debates.

Every day that goes by that we Democrats remain silent and spurn healthy debate among those who would lead us is fatal to the party’s chances to defend the progress we’ve made under President Barack Obama and the progress still to come under the Democratic banner.

Our Democratic Party — the party of human rights and human dignity — must no longer stay silent against the headwinds of a boundless demagoguery not seen for a generation. To the contrary, we must present a clear and compelling vision for moving the country forward. We must present it now.

Simply put, the DNC’s plan to forbid candidates who participate in more than the six sanctioned debates from participating in the DNC debates is an unacceptable violation of our party’s commitment to a value fundamental to our democracy: open political speech.

We respectfully request that the DNC remove the penalty for presidential candidates who participate in more than the six sanctioned debates. For the sake of our party and the future of our country, we hope the DNC will strongly consider this request.

As this summer of political discontent has shown, these are volatile times in the course of our country. The American people need to hear from us, the party of civil and constructive debate, now, not later. Now, before it is too late. 

Sen. Martha Fuller Clark is a Democrat from Portsmouth. Sen. Lou D’Allesandro is a Democrat from Manchester. This letter is also signed by: Sen. Andrew Hosmer, D-Laconia; Dan Calegari; Peter Burling; Dudley Dudley; John Rauh; Mary Rauh; Dr. Bill Siroty; Dean Barker; Rachel Hampe; Elizabeth Campbell; and Jay Surdukowski. 

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