Sanders: Democratic debate format is 'demeaning'

Sanders: Democratic debate format is 'demeaning'
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders 'outraged' after MLB threatens to cut ties with minor league teams Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE (I-Vt.) is frustrated by the Democratic presidential primary debates, saying that the spectacle of 20 candidates agitating for time plays to their worst instincts and is “demeaning” to the field of contenders.

Speaking on the "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast, Sanders said “you shouldn’t even call them a debate.”

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“What they are is a reality TV show in which you have to come up with a soundbite and all that stuff,” he said. “It’s demeaning to the candidates and it’s demeaning to the American people. You can’t explain the complexity of health care in America in 45 seconds, nobody can.”

The Vermont senator, who is in second place behind former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications MORE in many national and early-voting state polls, acknowledged that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) “is in a difficult position” trying to accommodate the two dozen candidates running for the party’s nomination.

But he said the current format encourages the candidates to stand out with outrageous soundbites in an effort to earn media attention.

“What it encourages people to do is come up with soundbites and do absurd things,” Sanders said. “If I yell and scream on this show and took my clothes off, it would get a lot of publicity, right? If you give a thoughtful answer to a complicated question, it’s not so sexy for the media.”

Twenty candidates participated in each of the first two rounds of Democratic presidential debates, which have so far been spread over two nights with 10 candidates onstage each night.

The DNC has raised the threshold to qualify for the September debate in Houston. Candidates must have 130,000 unique donors and reach 2 percent in four sanctioned polls to qualify.

The debate stage could shrink considerably.

So far, Biden, Sanders, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Buttigieg rolls out endorsements from South Bend officials Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE, and Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate Booker cancels NH activities, campaign says he has the flu MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump executive order aimed at combating anti-Semitism stirs up controversy Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Sanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate MORE (Calif.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (Minn.) have qualified.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardDemocrats set early state primary debates for 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Gabbard news items generating more social interactions than other 2020 Democrats: study MORE (Hawaii), tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Yang unveils plan to address care for children and adults with disabilities Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro appear to be close to qualifying.