Booker leads whining about debate qualifications


The last round of Democratic presidential debates is scheduled for next week and Senator Cory Booker isn’t happy about it. More specifically, he’s upset that he won’t be invited to attend under the current DNC rules. Of course, he’s hardly alone in that boat. We still have well over a dozen contenders but only seven of them have qualified. As a result, Booker is circulating a petition asking the DNC to relax the rules, and surprisingly, some of his leading competitors have already signed on. (The Hill)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is asking his fellow 2020 candidates to sign a petition he is circulating that asks the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to change its debate qualifications.

Booker, who has languished in the low and middle tiers of the 2020 primary field, failed to qualify for next week’s primary debate and has pushed the DNC to ease its donor and polling thresholds…

Booker began circulating a petition to other 2020 contenders Friday, according to a copy of the document obtained Saturday by BuzzFeed News, urging the DNC to “lift the barriers” on participation in further debates.

As I mentioned above, every one of the seven candidates who qualified for next week’s debate has signed the letter. I suppose they all fear looking like they’re trying to give the rest of the field the bum’s rush and prefer to come off looking magnanimous. But that’s a pretty serious leap to make. Why invite more competition to undercut you when we’re in the final month before the voting starts? Then again, Booker really only had to get one of them to sign and then the rest would basically be shamed into doing so also.

It’s not exactly clear what Booker is asking for here. His letter is apparently based on an earlier letter sent in by fifty Democratic officials in New Hampshire. The original missive called for “lifting the barriers” to entry in the debate, but what does that mean? No requirements at all? It can’t be, because there are a lot of people who are technically running for the nomination. Pretty soon they would have to invite Vermin Supreme. (Yes, I know. He’s running as a Libertarian this year, but you get the point.)

It sounds like Booker is instead angling to have the requirements eased to the same levels used for the first debates. But that wouldn’t just allow Booker on the stage. They would be back to having Castro, Marianne Williamson and the rest of the clown car riders as well.

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What the DNC decides is up to them, of course, and I really don’t have a horse in this race. But it seems to me that the candidates complaining about the bar being too high are acting unreasonably both in their demands and their justification. The chief complaint is that the rules have made the debate stage “less diverse.” (In other words, too many white people and men.) That’s convenient for Booker, but since when do the debate rules have to have a racial entitlement component? If you don’t like the fact that Yang is the only minority candidate to qualify, take that up with your voters who answer the phones when the pollsters call.

It seems to me that all of the candidates previously agreed that the debate stages were too crowded and nobody got more than a few minutes of speaking time. The DNC said from the beginning that they would be tightening the qualification requirements as we neared the end of the year and not one of the campaigns complained back then. All we’re hearing now is grousing from the ones that didn’t make the cut.

For what it’s worth, this petition may not go anywhere anyway. A DNC spokesperson told Buzzfeed this weekend that they, “will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates.” Of course, they could still cave on that stance if the frontrunners put enough pressure on them, but for now, it looks like Booker and the rest of the middle to lower-tier candidates will remain out in the cold.

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