The Morning Jolt

Elections

Stop Complaining, Democrats. The Threshold for the DNC Debates Is Low.

Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand at the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco, Calif., June 1, 2019. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: A handful of long-shot Democratic presidential candidates reach the inevitable stage of whining about how difficult and unfair everything is, social-media companies are slowly strangling what made their platforms worthwhile, a bit of book news, and a remembrance of the complicated legacy of someone who chose to leave us far too soon.

Reality Is Hitting the Democratic Presidential Candidates Like a Folding Chair to the Head

Some Democratic presidential campaigns are like the protagonist in an M. Night Shyamalan movie: They’re dead already, they just don’t know it. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say they were never really alive.

The first Democratic presidential primary debates will be held in two weeks. The threshold for participation is exceptionally low, particularly for any candidate who announced near the beginning of the year: Either reach just 1 percent in three surveys approved by the Democratic National Committee or have 65,000 or more donors that include 200 people from at least 20 states. If you think reaching that threshold is difficult, keep in mind, this limit has already been reached by Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney, and Irving Schmidlap.

(Okay, I threw Irving Schmidlap in there just to see if you were paying attention.)

The DNC decided to limit the debates to two nights with ten candidates each. You’ll recall 24 candidates are running.

Already you’re hearing complaints that the threshold is too high and that the DNC rules just aren’t fair.

Top Montana Democrats sent a scathing letter to Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez on Friday in response to the DNC’s decision to change its debate qualification rules in a way that would prevent Gov. Steve Bullock, a 2020 presidential candidate, from participating.

“We know many consider us to be fly-over country or little more than an ideal vacation spot, but we know we’ve offered countless invaluable contributions to the Democratic Party and our nation as a whole,” the letter says. “The recent implementation of extra qualification rules for the June debates in Miami could deny the Democratic Party a voice representing rural America.”

Of course. It can’t just be that Bullock is largely unknown outside of his home state, he jumped in too late, and Democratic primary voters are satisfied with all of the other 23 choices. No, no, it has to be a sinister effort of those urban elitists to dismiss the voices of rural American.

You’re already hearing the “Those grapes were probably sour anyway” explanation from candidates who aren’t likely to a make it.

[Seth] Moulton admitted he won’t make the cut for the first primary debates during an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show Thursday.

“No, I’m not going to make the first debate, but I knew that, getting in so late. But I think that’s OK,” Moulton said. “This first debate’s going to have 20 people. Folks are barely going to get a chance to speak.”

That part is probably true, which is why the debate is unlikely to be a rousing success for the bottom 15 or so candidates. Ten candidates over a two-hour span would be 12 minutes each, and that’s before we take out time for questions, audience applause, etcetera. After you finish your answer, the audience is probably going to hear from nine candidates before they hear from you again. And then there’s a whole other night of candidates!

But if you’re not on the debate stage, you’re missing out on even that limited opportunity to reach potential primary supporters. A lot of these presidential candidates are walking around with the delusion that they will make some appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire — states full of voters who run into three presidential candidates on the way to the grocery store — and somehow win over these voters through the sheer force of their personality. Guys, it’s not going to work. In 2007, Connecticut senator Chris Dodd moved with his family to Iowa and enrolled his children in Iowa schools. He finished with less than one percent in the 2008 caucus.

What these candidates don’t want to hear (but must) is that if they didn’t qualify for the first debate, there’s no guarantee that they’ll qualify for the second debate, and the outlook really isn’t good for the third or fourth debates. The DNC recently announced that for the third and fourth debates — in September and October respectively — candidates must hit 2 percent in four polls from a slightly changed list of approved pollsters and have 130,000 unique donors from the date of their campaign’s creation.

If that two percent polling threshold were in place now, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee, Tulsi Gabbard, Bill de Blasio, John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet, Julian Castro, Eric Swalwell, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, and John Delaney would not be on the stage, as well as Moulton and Bullock. Amy Klobuchar would be just above the threshold.

Gillibrand is now complaining that the DNC criteria amounts to a popularity contest. Er, indeed, senator.

Gillibrand called the 65,000-donor threshold an “odd measurable” that is “random and inaccurate.” Although she added, “They’re the DNC, so I’ll follow the rules that are given and I’ll have to play by the rules,” the senator said the measure “is not determinative of any of the things that matter about whether I’d beat Trump.”

“Because if Madonna was running, she’d have a million supporters. She’d have more than anybody,” Gillibrand concluded.“What having followers is a measurable of is whether you’re famous, it’s a measure of whether people know enough about you to send you a dollar.”

If people wonder why complaints about fairness are so frequently ignored, it’s because of circumstances like this one. The DNC is being really generous, their thresholds are low, and if you can’t reach one percent — one percent! In either national or early primary state polls! — then no, you really don’t belong up there on that debate stage. You’re not supposed to run for president because you want a national reputation; you’re supposed to have a national reputation before you run for president. Presidential campaigns are not supposed to be publicity stunts or longer book tours. If you want to be the next commander in chief, I don’t want to year you whining about how hard all of this is. The job that you claim to be qualified for is going to have much tougher challenges than reaching one percent in a survey or attracting 130,000 donors.

Social-Media Companies Are Slowly Making Their Product Unusable

The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney describes another short-lived but never-fully-explained suspension of his account. Today on NRO, former congressional staffer Sam Sweeney urges people to leave social media:

My advice: Delete your Facebook, yesterday. Don’t get your news from Twitter. The issues of free speech on social media will no longer matter to you. They don’t matter to me. I’ve made a decision not to subjugate myself to the whims of our new overlords. They can open their platform to everyone from neo-Nazis to Kim Jong-un, or they can have a litmus test that includes denouncing Donald Trump or the pope at regular intervals — a sort of school-bathroom pass fitting for our generation’s extended adolescence in which Mark Zuckerberg plays the schoolmarm. It won’t affect my life either way. In my own mind at least, I am free because these things no longer define my life. I am happier as a result. I can still read a book of some length, an ability I see dropping off sharply among my peers.

Imagine a day when Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey or Susan Wojcicki or all three announced:

We’ve tried to be a platform for public discourse, but it’s just too difficult and as many users have noticed, we’re not really interested in that role. We established these companies to make money, and we’ve grown into a role we never initially envisioned. And after years of trying to play that role we never sought, we’ve rethought everything and concluded we’re not interested in letting both sides have a say. We have strong political views, and we’re going to shut down content on our platforms that we don’t like. We believe that our platforms can help build a more progressive future, and we will de-platform anyone who we feel stands in the way. There will not be an appeals process. The range of acceptable opinions will run from about the New York Times op-ed page to Jacobin. We’re a private company, there’s nothing you can do about it, so get used to it.

Would we at least credit them for honesty? Would they be happier? Would we be happier, knowing that the only solution is to make a different company with a different philosophy?

For Those Who Pre-Ordered, We’re Almost There . . . 

Tomorrow is publication day for Between Two Scorpions, so if you’ve ordered the e-book, sometime around midnight it should instantly download into your Kindle. If you’ve ordered the paperback, copies head out the door tomorrow, on their way to you. If you missed the chance to order the paperback at $11.69 price, you missed your window.

As of this morning, almost 70 people have RSVPed for the book event in Bluffton, South Carolina June 17. If you’re interested, please RSVP on that EventBrite link so we know how much food to get — and if you RSVP, please come, otherwise I’ll be eating leftover food all week. We will have about 100 copies of the paperback on hand.

ADDENDUM: Every weekday morning, National Review’s Marlo Safi helps take the Morning Jolt from barely coherent ramblings full of misspellings and unfinished sentences to the polished product you’re reading now. This weekend, on the anniversary of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, she wrote a nuanced, clear-eyed appreciation of the man and the sense of wonder and adventure he encouraged in his viewers.

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