Sanders: Democratic debate format is 'demeaning'

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

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTo break the corporate tax logjam, tax overinflated CEO pay Will Pence primary Trump — and win? Grassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa 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 BidenHouse Republican calls second bout of COVID-19 'far more challenging' Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Biden: Pathway to citizenship in reconciliation package 'remains to be seen' 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 ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary The Hill's Morning Report - High-profile COVID-19 infections spark new worries MORE, and Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerCongress can make progress on fighting emissions with Zero Food Waste Act Scott: 'There is hope' for police reform bill Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWill Pence primary Trump — and win? Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law Biden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWill Pence primary Trump — and win? Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law 'CON laws' limit the health care competition Biden aims to deliver MORE (Calif.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks Competition laws could be a death knell for startup mergers and acquisitions MORE (Minn.) have qualified.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard on Chicago mayor's decision to limit media interviews to people of color: 'Anti-white racism' Fox News says network and anchor Leland Vittert have 'parted ways' New co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials MORE (Hawaii), tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Kings launch voting rights effort honoring John Lewis Eric Adams to meet with Biden on curbing gun violence MORE and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro appear to be close to qualifying.