Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Stealth Democratic Debates - Pathway To Clinton-Sanders 2016 Ticket?

The Saturday December 19th Democratic debate
Even though I consider myself an avid political junkie, after a long work week about the last thing I want to do is sit down and spend two hours (or more) watching a political debate on television on a weekend night.

Now much has been written about the fact that the past two televised Democratic presidential debates have taken place on Saturday nights, which is generally considered the low-rent neighborhood of the weekday broadcast spectrum in terms of viewing audience and ratings.

Confession: on Saturday night I watched the Jets - Cowboys game then tuned in for Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-hosting and Bruce Springsteen as the musical guest.

As far back as last August The Guardian was one of many media outlets making the observation that stashing the Democratic debates away on Saturday nights was essentially having the effect of a slow "coronation" of Hillary Clinton because candidates like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee (remember him?) all get far less free media exposure than Clinton does.

Granted no small measure of Hillary's media exposure in the past couple months has resulted from the Republican Congressional frenzy over Benghazi and her emails, but the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State is a shrewd political operator who understands there is no such thing as bad publicity in the 24-hour news cycle - only the ability or failure to take advantage of it.

After her sometimes-tumultuous presidential campaigns with Explainer-in-Chief Bill Clinton in the 90's, Hillary knows how to surf controversy like Patrick Swayze's "Bodhi" handled waves in the original Point Break.

Hillary silently mocks hysterical Republicans during the Benghazi hearings 
Her ability to deflect scandal would make deceased "Teflon Don" John Gotti envious.

Benghazi? Ping! Email server controversy? Ping!

Even though Hillary herself cautioned supporters that she did not want to make the mistake of assuming what many power brokers in the DNC have already assumed (that she will be the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2016), the scheduling of the past two debates has helped to limit the amount of media exposure for Bernie Sanders to get his message out.

Despite reports that Sanders recently broke President Obama's campaign fundraising records, he still lags behind Hillary in terms of overall media coverage.

I read the recent interview with Bernie Sanders in Rolling Stone and came away genuinely impressed with the thrust of his overall campaign message and political objectives; definitely check it out if you haven't already read it.

After reading the RS article, to me it seems like he has a much more coherent and populist message than she does with his emphasis on correcting the massive imbalances and inequities within the American economy in terms of wage growth, the erosion of the middle class, fair taxation of corporations and the ultra rich and holding the Wall Street kingpins and uber-bankers responsible for crashing the economy in 2008.

But in terms of mainstream media coverage, the core of his message seems to stay buried under the weight of Hillary's larger national exposure and better name familiarity.

By all accounts she has the support of far more party delegates than he does as well as the power Democratic rainmakers.

Given the outsize influence of lobbyists and money on our political system these days, I'm not naive about the sharp right turn America's representative Democracy has taken towards becoming an oligarchy with the help of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United and their willingness to undermine key provisions of the historic Voting Rights Act.

But I'm feeling a sense of disappointment with the way the DNC has handled the scheduling of the limited slate of public debates between the three leading Democratic candidates - especially during the 7th year of a two-term Democratic President.

Even though the importance of the 2016 presidential elections is critical to the direction of this country in so many ways, I've got mixed feelings about the conduct of the Democratic National Committee as of late - it just feels rigged in Hillary's favor.

As an active party supporter, I don't just vote in all national, state and local elections, I support Congressional and Senate candidates from other states with modest contributions and try do my thing on social media.

So in my humble view, the very name "Democrat" implies more than just a casual connection to the basic principles of Democracy and the Democratic process - shouldn't Democrats get the chance to hear  the candidates debate the merits of the issues and form their own opinions?

Thus far that doesn't quite seem to be playing out with the way the past two debates have gone.

The next Democratic debate is supposedly scheduled for Thursday January 7th as the primary season starts to heat up and the rubber starts to meet the road - but my sense is Hillary's lead will already be cemented by then.

It's not that I think the DNC is being insidious or anything. On the contrary.

Like millions of Americans, I think the Democratic party power brokers realize this current crop of Republican candidates would be a disaster for the country and so their sights are firmly set on the White House and the path that leads there must be blazed by a candidate who can win the popular vote.

I like Bernie's message but the bottom line is Hillary will be hard to beat in 2016 with Bill hitting the campaign trail with her; like many I confess to being secretly intrigued by the idea of Bill back in the White House.

Frankly, if she brings Bernie on as her VP candidate the Republican party has nothing to even touch that ticket in a popular election - not with an abusive racist clown like Donald Trump leading GOP polls by double digits.

Who knows, maybe that's exactly what the DNC has in mind.

After all by keeping the debates low-key they minimize the damage Hillary and Bernie can do to each other during the primary season to make it that much easier for them to combine forces like the Wonder Twins and bring this thing home in 2016.

I'm no Nate Silver-like political prognosticator but Clinton-Sanders 2016; that's where my money is.

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