DNC has no good answer to Martin O'Malley's case for more debates

Three days have passed since presidential candidate Martin O’Malley blasted the Democratic National Committee’s “cynical move to delay and limit our own Party debates” during a speech to members and leaders at the DNC’s summer meeting. I enclose below the full text of O’Malley’s remarks, as prepared. The first section presses his case against the “unprecedented,” “rigged process” for allowing only six presidential candidate debates. O’Malley noted that just four debates are scheduled before the early caucuses and primaries, and “the New Hampshire debate is cynically wedged into the high point of the holiday shopping season so as few people watch it as possible.” For those who haven’t had a chance to see O’Malley campaign yet, the other sections of his remarks are adapted from his standard stump speech.

I have yet to hear any good argument for limiting presidential debates. You won’t find any response to O’Malley on the DNC’s official website. While the governor’s comments about debates were the big news from the summer meeting, dominating most media coverage of the event, the DNC’s Twitter feed picked this bland quote to highlight: “‘Whether or not we make the American Dream true again for all American families is up to us.’ -@MartinOMalley #dems15”

At the Iowa State Fair, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz couldn’t be distracted from her laundry list of talking points to respond to hecklers demanding more debates. Nor could she be bothered to engage with O’Malley’s substantive case last Friday. CNN reported that Wasserman Schultz “spent most of the speech looking down at a table just feet from the governor,” rarely clapping. Asked about O’Malley’s claim that it might be illegal for the national party to prohibit candidates from debating in non-sanctioned forums, the DNC leader told CNN, “I am quite confident that the process we have established is directly compliant with our rules and completely legal, whatever that means.” But why is she so set on those rules?

Conventional wisdom says the DNC intervened in the process to put a thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton. Although long-shot candidates arguably have more to gain from debates than the front-runner, I reject the premise that the DNC’s asinine policy helps Clinton. She and all Democrats would benefit from a large national audience watching five (or perhaps six) candidates intelligently discuss issues that matter to people’s lives. More important, Democratic voters should have more than a handful of chances to see our candidates side by side.

Martin O’Malley campaign press release, August 28:

Governor Martin O’Malley Delivers Remarks at the DNC Summer Meeting

Minneapolis, MN-Today, Governor O’Malley will give remarks at the Democratic National Committee Summer Meeting. His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

1. Letting the Circus Run Unchallenged

Thank you Vice Chair Durazo for your kind introduction.

To the Chair of the DNC, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to all of the distinguished officers and members of the Democratic National Committee, and friends, to my colleague and friend, former Mayor, R.T. Ryback, to my own Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings Blake… it is a great honor to be with all of you here today.

My name is Martin O’Malley.

I am a life-long Democrat, I am running for for President of the United States, and I need your help to rebuild the truth of the American Dream we share!

I love my country, and I have carried a lot of water for this donkey!

And I — for one — will not remain silent in the face of the lies, … the distortions, … and the racist hate being pumped out over the airwaves from the debate podiums of the once proud Republican Party!

All of you are aware the Republicans held their first two debates earlier this month. They will hold another in a couple weeks … You could easily have mistaken their debate for a reality TV show, like Survivor. But the difference between the Republican debate and Survivor is that one involves contrived challenges and oddball contestants on the edge of sanity, while the other takes place on an island.

But here is the sad hard truth we must own:

While the Republicans put their backwards ideas forward before an audience of more than 20 million Americans. We put our forward-thinking ideas on the backburner…and try to hide them from the airwaves.

Think about it.

The Republicans stand before the nation, malign our President’s record of achievements, denigrate women and immigrant families, double-down on trickle-down, and tell their false story.

We respond… with crickets,… tumbleweeds,…and a cynical move to delay and limit our own Party debates.

Four debates and only four debates — we are told not asked — before voters in our earliest States make their decision.

This is totally unprecedented in our Party.

This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before.

Whose decree is it?  Where did it come from?  To what end?  For what purpose?  What National or Party interest does this decree serve?

How does this help us tell the story of the last eight years of Democratic progress?

How does this promote our Democratic ideas for making wages and household incomes go up again and not down?

How does this help us make our case to the people?

One debate in Iowa. That’s it.

One debate in New Hampshire. That’s all we can afford.

And the New Hampshire debate is cynically wedged into the high point of the holiday shopping season so as few people watch it as possible.

Is this how the Democratic Party selects its nominee, or are we becoming something else,…something less?

Whatever happened to open debates and the fifty State strategy?

Their Party’s leading candidate scapegoats immigrant families. He launches racist attacks on entire ethnic groups of Americans — to the delight of David Duke and other white supremacists — and our response… is to limit debates?!

If all of this bothers you, it should.

The leading Republican candidate talks openly about forced expulsions and taking away the birthright of American born children, and we turn the Democratic Party into “the appalling silence of the good?!”

Silence and complacency in the face of hate is not an honorable option!

We must stand before the American people and show them we have a better way!

It was in a series of debates that Abraham Lincoln first forged a new national consensus to continue the great unfinished work to affirm our common humanity and the God-given dignity of every person in our country.

Now in an ongoing series of debates, the party of Lincoln is led by Donald Trump.

Donald Trump whose deep understanding of the law is such that last week he said part of the Constitution is unconstitutional.

Donald Trump whose foreign policy insights are, he said, based entirely on what he’s seen on TV.

Will we let the circus run unchallenged on every channel, as we cower in the shadows under a decree of silence in the ranks!?…

Or will we demand equal time to showcase our ideas, our solutions to the nation’s problems, and our leadership for the better America we carry in hearts?

Let their Party be led by a hate-spewing carnival barker!

Our Party must be led by compassion, by generosity, by a love and concern for one another, and a focus on our country’s better future!

We must stand up, stand together, and speak out for for the ideas that unite us — a belief in the dignity of every person, a belief in our own responsibility to defend and advance the common good we share as Americans!

These are volatile and fear-filled times.

This is no time for silence.

Our Party must not cower from this debate, we must engage the debate.

“The American people are smart, smarter than these Republicans think.”

The truth can damn well defend herself — but she must be stated first!

We must make our case, and let the people decide!

2. We Need Debate

We have arrived at a point in our history where wealth and power have become so concentrated on the hands of so very few… that it is literally taking opportunity out of the homes, the wallets, and the neighborhoods of the many.

We must show the American people that we have the better path forward.

Our Party must engage this national debate.

Republicans say Americans need to work longer hours.

Democrats know that people are working harder and making less.

We must raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour however and wherever we can!

We must pay overtime pay once again for overtime work!

And we must pay women equal pay for equal work!

We need debate.

What are we afraid of?

Republicans belittle teachers and seek to outlaw labor unions, scoffing at the nerve of working people seeking better wages.

Democrats defend the right to organize and bargain collectively because we know that makes wages rise for all Americans!

We need debate.

Republicans talk about raising the retirement age as if Social Security were some kind of indulgence the wealthy bestow upon the rest of.

Democrats care that there are 65 year-olds who get up every morning to work in factories, to finish concrete, to clean buildings.

Hard-working Americans should retire in dignity, not in poverty.

We should be expanding Social Security, not cutting or dismantling it.

We need debate.

Republicans traffic in immigrant hate, they call for walls, internment camps, and forced expulsions.

Democrats understand the enduring symbol of our nation is not the barbed wire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty.

We need debate.

They say we spend too much on women’s health; they dismiss calls for equal pay for equal work as a sideshow.

We know that when women succeed, America succeeds.

We need debate.

3. Action Not Words

I am not the only candidate for President who holds progressive values,…

But I am the only candidate for President with fifteen years of executive experience — as a big City Mayor and as a Governor — turning those progressive values into actions. Turning progressive goals into progressive achievements.

Getting things done.

New leadership.

It’s about actions, not words.

In Baltimore, we saved lives by reducing record high violence to record lows; black lives matter.

Actions, not words.

In the face of a national recession, I led my state forward, not back, to achieve nation-leading progress.

We increased funding for public education by 37%, and made our public schools the best public schools in America for five years in a row!

We froze College tuition four years in a row to make college more affordable.

Actions, not words.

We passed a living wage, and we raised the minimum wage.

We expanded family leave and voting rights, we passed Driver’s licenses for New American immigrants, and we banned the sale of assault weapons.

Actions not words.

We passed a state version of the DREAM Act, we passed Marriage Equality.

And when our Republican brothers and sisters petitioned those measures to public referendum  – we took our case to the people, and we won at the ballot!

Actions, not words.

4. Conclusion

The great American Poet, Gwendolyn Books, once wrote: “We are each other’s business. We are each other’s harvest. We are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Whether or not we make the American Dream true again for all American families is up to us.

It is up to our Party.

I have put forward 15 Goals to Rebuild the American Dream.

One by one.

Policy action, by policy action.

Each one reinforcing, and complementing the other.

Bold ideas.

Concrete Plans.

Actions to make our country stronger.

For only actions can make the American Dream true again around the most important places in our country — the kitchen tables of every American family.

The time is now to put these ideas – and all the best ideas of all of our candidates – before the American people.

The American people deserve it.

Our service to the cause of our country’s better future demands it.

We are the Democratic Party, not the undemocratic Party.

If we are to debate debates, the topic should be how many, not how few.

Because when the lights come up on our stage, we will speak to where America is going not to where we have been.

We will ask one another what we can do for our country, not what we can do against immigrants.

We will speak to the goodness, the compassion, and the generosity of Americans.

For ours is the party of opportunity.

Ours is the party of the people.

And ours is the party of our children’s better future.

So, let us engage the debate!

Let us make our case to the American people!

And together — we will win this election and rebuild the truth of the American Dream we share!

  • O'Malley and rigged elections

    I fully agree with my former governor’s take on the Democratic presidential debates. However, I find it extremely ironic that it is O’Malley who complains and makes claims about a “rigged election.” If one really wants to see a completely rigged election, you must study the Democratic Party primaries here in O’Malley’s own Maryland. In our primaries, the incumbent officials in each geographic area form candidate “slates” that raise funds and advertise jointly. Especially in low-budget down ballot races (state legislative, county, school board races), it is impossible to beat an incumbent that appears on the primary incumbent slate ballot. In any open seat races at these lower levels, the candidate endorsed by the incumbent slate always wins. This rigged election is the foundation that the Democratic Party political machine in Maryland rests on. (I speak as a dedicated Democrat here.) – O’Malley never had any problems with a rigged primary system when it benefited him and his fellow Maryland incumbent/establishment Democrats.

    And, if one starts talking about rigged elections beyond primaries, it is also good to remember that during O’Malley’s governorship Maryland produced what most neutral observers consider the most gerrymandered Congressional districts of any Democrat-controlled state.  

    • all fair points

      As they say, where you stand depends on where you sit.

      I think the best thing for the Democratic Party’s image would have been for our candidates to hold a televised debate the week after the GOP’s Trump show in Cleveland. Public interest would have been high, and the contrast would have been tremendous.

  • Apologies for multiple posts

    Screen appeared frozen and pressed post a couple extra times.

  • With you on this

    Conventional wisdom says the DNC intervened in the process to put a thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton. Although long-shot candidates arguably have more to gain from debates than the front-runner, I reject the premise that the DNC’s asinine policy helps Clinton.

    I suspect the conventional wisdom is correct on the first count.  On the second count, I agree with you, in fact I think Clinton and the DNC will eventually come to regret not scheduling more debates.

    • the contrast

      between our candidates’ level of discourse and how the Republicans are talking would be a boost for all Democrats.

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