No Democratic presidential debates? Seriously?
Here lies competitive debates, dead in 2016?
An article in Politico last week reports that if a strong progressive leader like Elizabeth Warren doesn’t enter the presidential primary,the next Democratic presidential candidate “might wind up not even debating during the primaries.”1
What?! Having no debates would hurt Democratic voters and the American electorate. It would also mean the eventual candidate would head into a general election without having been tested and strengthened—and then face a Republican who survived the fire of a crowded, competitive field.
Most infuriatingly, it would mean that the critical discussion of how to build a fairer economy that works for all—one that respects work, strengthens the middle class, and opens opportunities to a next generation of Americans—could be silenced completely.
There are millions of Americans counting on that conversation to improve their lives—and millions of Democratic voters who want a thorough debate before they select a candidate. Which is why it’s so important that Senator Elizabeth Warren—a progressive champion who can and will force other candidates and our nation to engage in a meaningful debate—enters the primary.
MoveOn has launched an ambitious, massive campaign to urge Sen. Warren to run for president. We’ve opened offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, we’ve hired field coordinators, we’re commissioning polling and focus groups, and we’re giving it our all to ensure we all get the debates we deserve.
Debates aren’t a luxury—they are the heart and soul of how we engage with the issues most important to us. They shape the candidates, and they deeply impact the election.
- In 2004, following years of Democrats going along with the worst ideas of the Bush Administration, Governor Howard Dean’s participation in the primary helped shock the party out of its slumber, forcing Democratic candidates, including John Kerry, to take strong stands against the ongoing Iraq War.
- In 2008, John Edwards’ focus on health care drove candidates Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to accept it as a central issue in the race—and helped make affordable care one of President Obama’s top priorities.
- That same year, the 50-state contest between Obama and Clinton was long and grueling—but it gave every voter ample opportunity to see what the candidates stood for … and made the young senator from Illinois a much fiercer candidate against John McCain.
Debates are critical: for the candidates, the party, and for all of us. Democrats need and deserve vigorous primary debate. But according to Politico and other political experts, debates are guaranteed only if a viable candidate like Sen. Warren joins the race—which is one big reason why we’re urging her to jump in.
We can already see the impact Sen. Warren is having on the debate in Washington. Other Democrats are following her lead and finding the courage to oppose Wall Street insiders for key roles at the Treasury Department and giveaways to Big Banks. President Obama’s State of the Union address included a range of commonsense ideas to strengthen the middle class that sounded as though they were inspired by Sen. Warren’s own speeches. And even Republican presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio—not exactly economic populists—have started adopting Sen. Warren’s talking points.2,3
Why? Because her message resonates with regular Americans. Her ideas challenge corporate power and suggest a route to a new economy.
And if those ideas can influence the Republican primary, we definitely need them to influence the Democratic primary. Or Republicans could win the messaging war on income inequality—even though their “solutions” will only make things worse.
The future of our economy—and our country—depends on our elected leaders seriously debating the kinds of issues Sen. Warren champions day in and day out.
Let’s make sure Democrats have that debate. And make sure Sen. Warren is driving the discussion.
1. “Inside Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Plan,” Politico, January 26, 2015
2. “Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio decry income inequality, clash over foreign policy,” The Washington Post, January 26, 2015
3. “The New Compassionate Conservatism and Trickle-Down Economics,” The Huffington Post, January 19, 2015