So many issues, too many candidates and so little time to debate

So many issues, too many candidates and so little time to debate
© Hill Illustration

The fourth round of Democratic presidential debates on Oct. 15 will be the first since the beginning of the House impeachment inquiry, the first since Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal Gabbard says she won't participate in next debate even if she qualifies Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE’ (I-Vt.) heart attack and the first with more than 10 candidates on the stage. With so many candidates on stage and so many issues to discuss, it should be a wild evening. 

Unfortunately, the crowded stage will leave a lot to be desired. With 12 candidates on stage, a conversation likely focused on impeachment may eat up a lot of time.

Aside from impeachment, Sanders’ health will certainly prompt a discussion about his fitness for office and that of the other two 70-something candidates, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard says she won't participate in next debate even if she qualifies On The Money: White House, Dems edge closer to trade deal | GOP worries about Trump concessions | DOJ argues Congress can't sue Trump on emoluments | Former Fed chief Volcker dies UN International Anticorruption Day highlights democracy as a human right MORE (D-Mss.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGabbard says she won't participate in next debate even if she qualifies House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday FBI head rejects claims of Ukrainian 2016 interference MORE. There is likely to be a discussion of health care, which is a pressing issue and the defining issue in the presidential contest.

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These are important issues, but there is a danger that there will be little opportunity for the Democratic candidates to discuss the other issues that concern many Americans. There won’t be much time left to discuss the looming recession, foreign policy, gun violence and climate change — all of which demand the attention of the White House hopefuls.

There has been some discussion of gun violence and climate change in the Democratic debates but there has been little discussion so far about two key problems: the looming recession and national security.

It’s still the economy, stupid.

Most economists believe that the nation is at the end of a business cycle of economic growth that began with the Obama-era recovery after the Wall Street crash of 2008. In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll three of every five Americans (60 percent) said they believed the nation was heading into a recession.

“Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal could both be economic engines down the road. But the candidates have not discussed the actions that will be necessary to help Americans cope with the effects of the looming recession. Americans won’t be patient when the recession arrives. So, the Democratic aspirants should be clear on their plans for a quick remedy for the economic downturn,

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Action to deal with the painful effects of a recession could lay the foundation for more comprehensive initiatives to deal with big national problems.

A big investment in infrastructure would stimulate the economy and provide a foundation for fighting climate change. A reversal of the tax cuts for big business in favor of working families would put money in the pockets of Americans and eventually provide the basis for the funding for Medicare for All or an extension of ObamaCare. 

The other neglected problem is national security. 

There hasn’t been much discussion of foreign policy so far in the Democratic race, which is unfortunate since the next president will spend most of his or her time dealing with the aftermath of President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE’s inept handling of our relationship with the rest of the world, especially his betrayal of America’s allies.  

So many issues, so many candidates and so little time.

The problem is all these problems deserve discussion but there have been too many Democrats on the debate stages to do the issues justice. The Democratic presidential debates won’t become manageable until there are fewer candidates participating. It’s impossible to have a serious discussion about vital issues when the candidates have only ninety seconds to answer questions. 

But sadly, that won’t happen soon. Eight Democratic contenders have already qualified for the fifth round on Nov. 20 even though the Democratic National Committee stiffened the requirements for participation.

The Democratic National Committee has already taken a lot of flak for winnowing the field down from two dozen candidates to 12. One candidate, Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard says she won't participate in next debate even if she qualifies UN International Anticorruption Day highlights democracy as a human right Gabbard commemorates John Lennon's passing by singing 'Imagine' MORE (D-Hawaii) initially threatened to boycott the fourth debate because of the exclusions, but later said she would attend. 

But the DNC has a responsibility to provide the Democratic hopefuls with a forum that allows them to intelligently and thoroughly discuss the pressing problems facing the nation — and that won’t happen with 12 candidates competing for attention on the same stage.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.