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Progressive Groups Release Letter Urging DNC Chair to Host Additional Presidential Debates

Groups include MoveOn, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Democrats.com and represent more than 10 million Americans.

Several progressive groups representing more than 10 million Americans released a letter on Monday urging Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to increase the opportunities for Democratic candidates to participate in prime time debates to counterbalance the endless free media Republican candidates have enjoyed with their frequent, high-profile, televised debates.

The letter is being released by MoveOn.org Political Action and is signed by DailyKos, CREDO Action, and Democrats.com

“Due to the lack of Democratic debates, the Democratic candidates seem virtually silent to many Americans,” the letter reads. “Voters are getting far more exposure to fringe Republican ideas than to Democratic candidates’ proposals that include expanding affordable college education, ensuring equal pay for equal work, ending the epidemic of incarceration, securing full legal equality for all Americans, and tackling climate change.”

The DNC has currently scheduled only six debates—fewer than the nine for Republican nominees—with only four taking place before the Iowa Caucuses, the first contest in the nation for White House hopefuls. Of those four debates, two are scheduled over holiday weekends, and one scheduled for a weekend during the busy holiday season—all of which will decrease viewership and the opportunity for Democratic candidates to reach audiences comparable to the Republican debates.

Over the weekend, Wasserman Schultz was interrupted several times during prepared remarks at the New Hampshire Democratic party convention with chants of “We want debates!” And House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined other lawmakers, including two vice-chairs of the DNC, in calling for a more intense debate schedule.

Collectively, the groups on the letter represent millions of Americans nationwide who are politically active and engaged in progressive change.

“It’s crucial that Democratic candidates have ample opportunities to engage with each other and voters on issues like economic inequality, climate change, and the movement for Black lives—none of which are getting significant airtime in the Republican debates” said Justin Krebs, campaign director for MoveOn.org Political Action, which represents the collective will of MoveOn’s more than 8 million members at the ballot box by helping to elect progressive candidates. “We need robust debates and a challenging Democratic primary to ensure these issues are central to the national dialogue and ensure a strong Democratic party and nominee.”

Read the full text of the letter here:

To: Representative Wasserman Schultz, Chair, Democratic National Committee

Dear Representative Wasserman Schultz,

The undersigned organizations, on behalf of millions of members around the country, ask you to increase the number of Democratic presidential primary debates in advance of the Iowa caucus, to schedule the current and additional debates during weekday primetime hours, to lift the sanction on participation in debates by candidates not sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, and to double the number of debates throughout the primary schedule—for the sake of our national dialogue, the Democratic party, and the strength of the eventual Democratic nominee in the general election.

Our democracy relies on a vibrant exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, right now, our nation’s political media coverage is dominated by Republican rhetoric reflective of views from the extreme right of our political spectrum, because only the GOP has yet held presidential primary debates.

Republicans are hosting a full schedule of debates, introducing the American public to the Republican candidates and giving conservative ideas endless free media. The GOP debates on August 6 and September 16 combined attracted tens of millions of viewers and dominated news coverage and analysis.

By comparison, due to the lack of Democratic debates, the Democratic candidates seem virtually silent to many Americans. Voters are getting far more exposure to fringe Republican ideas than to Democratic candidates’ proposals that include expanding debt-free college for, ensuring equal pay for equal work, ending the epidemic of incarceration, securing full legal equality for all Americans, and tackling climate change.

An insufficient number of primary debates also poses a substantial threat to the general election prospects of the eventual Democratic nominee. The Democratic nominee will face an aggressive challenge from the Republican party and well-funded right-wing Super PACs. The Democratic party should field a nominee who is battle-tested and in fighting shape in time for the general election. Primary debates are great preparation for debating and campaigning during the general election campaign. All candidates will emerge stronger from the experience of being tested in primary debates; just six debates—many of them on weekends and holidays—is not enough.

Our democracy needs more debates, starting sooner, and a full schedule of televised opportunities to hear from Democratic presidential candidates before the Iowa caucus. In 2007-2008, there were 26 Democratic primary debates. This year, the DNC has scheduled only six, and only four are before the first caucus.

All of the leading Democratic candidates—Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley, and Senator Sanders—have said directly or through their spokespeople that they are open to more debates. Please listen to the public, to members of the Democratic party, to DNC Vice Chairs Gabbard and Rybak, and to the candidates who seek the Democratic nomination.

Every day that passes, Republicans are defining the terms of national discourse, and Democratic candidates—and the progressive ideas they stand for—are losing out.

Sincerely,
MoveOn.org Political Action
Daily Kos
CREDO Action
Democrats.com

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