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The Republicans Have Been Trumped; Democrats Can Organize Better Debates

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Reprinted from The Nation

Both parties have their work cut out for them when it comes to improving their primary debates.

From flickr.com/photos/22007612@N05/5440604654/: Donald Trump
Donald Trump
(Image by Gage Skidmore)
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As the Republican National Committee prepares to begin what was supposed to be a carefully managed and scheduled presidential debating season -- but which is now turning into the Season of theTrump -- the Democratic National Committee has yet to set the date for the party's first debate.

The DNC announced in May that there would be six debates. Since then, however, details regarding the party's approach have been sparse. There are supposedly going to be debates in Iowa and New Hampshire in August or September. There is supposed to be a South Carolina debate in October or November. There is supposed to be a Nevada debate in November or December. There are supposed to be two more debates in January -- one in Iowa and one someplace else (although at that point it will be hard to say "no" to New Hampshire's demand for a second debate).

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The DNC is going to have to start filling in details soon, and there are some standards that ought to be set.

The first of these is that all of the announced and active contenders who are generally seen as serious -- even if their poll numbers may be weak -- should be included. The DNC sent a good signal in this regard Tuesday, when it announced that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island governor (and senator) Lincoln Chafee, and former Virginia senator Jim Webb would all be addressing the DNC Summer Meeting in Minneapolis on August 28.

The Summer Meeting is not being pitched as a debate, at least at this point. But getting all the candidates on the same stage and with equal time is the right standard for party events of this kind and for debates. The Republican decision to organize two-tier debates -- one for candidates with the better poll numbers that extend from name recognition and campaign money, another for candidates who need to appear in debates to get name recognition and campaign money -- is shameful. It uses scheduling and structure to lock in front-runners and also-rans. It also denies candidates who are most likely to call out Trump (think Lindsey Graham, who correctly says that the billionaire is "selling fear and prejudice") from getting on the same stage with the top candidate in the polls.

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