This past Friday, the Democratic National Convention announced a new participation criteria for primary debates after the one set in New Hampshire this week. The organization has eliminated the individual donor minimum and is requiring candidates to either earn a delegate in Iowa caucuses or meet a higher polling requirement to get on the stage.
This radical change in campaign financing opens the doors for self-funding candidates like Michael Bloomberg to the upcoming Nevada debate. It points to the demise of the grassroots-type campaigning that the DNC required for the last eight debates and in previous presidential races.
At this critical moment when some mature campaigns will be gutted, nerves are especially frayed. Bloomberg’s very recent entry into the race in conjunction with his dismissal of early voter states and individual donors makes the timing of this announcement suspect. If this modification comes to fruition in the intended way, the general public’s worst nightmare will come true.
A candidate will have paid for an institutionally legitimized spot on the ballot. Money’s ability to hold sway over politics and its bylaws is now literally immortalized. Interestingly, this precedent is being solidified by the Democratic party who portrays itself as this lighthouse in the fog of corruption. Government was not supposed to look this way and yet, here we are.
The DNC’s justification for this change is preposterous, given that the adjustment is clearly a candidate-specific move. It is impossible to fully capture grassroots support; the size of support bases are constantly fluctuating in response to a campaign’s developments.
Cory Booker, Andrew Yang and Julian Castro were left behind because of the old polling requirement despite being legitimate candidates with more developed policy proposals. Why was this change not pushed for and established before two of them dropped out and the third scrambled for donations?
The debate rules set in place previously were made to ensure that candidates were at the behest of the public. They only received the chance to speak to the nation when we believed that they earned it — that they had something substantial to say. The rules were put into place to maintain objectivity around the candidate’s long-term viability.
Bloomberg is the only candidate to benefit from this huge adjustment. While he may not be the only wealthy and privileged individual running, he is the only one who sincerely believes he can pay his way to the Democratic nomination.
And the DNC is wrongly strengthening his conviction. Instead of barring those who can pay their way to the top — who are usually white men — it is allowing them to pass right through the system.
This establishment sets the tone for who gets to be heard by Americans. Because it refused to update the rules to reflect a diverse pool of candidates, we’ve inadvertently pushed almost all of the people of color off one of the biggest and most-watched stages in the country. Yang earned his way to New Hampshire by the skin of his teeth. Yet, it’s painfully likely that he won’t make it much further.
Why is the DNC empowering a billionaire who doesn’t acknowledge how much privilege and power it takes to self-finance a presidential candidacy? Why is it empowering a man who supposedly wants to be president without support from all 50 states?
Bloomberg seems to be excited to share his vision for this country, but does he have one? Either way, the DNC doesn’t seem to mind.