01/27/2016 01:16 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2017

Let Ideas and Issues Trump Ideology


As Republican presidential candidates duke it out to compete for who gets to join in a seemingly endless series of debates (so much so they need two candidate categories) Democrats are worrying about whether or not they will be sanctioned for participating in additional debates. This despite the fact that the plethora of Republican candidates and debates is devoid of substance and issues while the paucity of Democratic debates prominently features substance and issues. Revisiting the quality versus quantity debate is certainly in order here. My head is literally about to explode.

I am a proud Democrat and particularly proud of the way our candidates have acquitted themselves during the limited and poorly scheduled debates offered during the current election cycle. A cursory look at the brewing debate over whether or not to sanction their participation in a proposed forum in New Hampshire next week defies not only conventional wisdom but wisdom itself! What in the world are party leaders thinking?

The strongest thing we Democrats have to offer this election is the fact that we have serious candidates who are capable of leading the nation in a direction that will truly benefit the greatest number of Americans. And while we may squabble over the extent to which we should attempt to push the envelope on issues like income inequality, health care, gun control, economic growth, financial regulation, immigration, and/or national security anyone paying attention to the discussion is left with little doubt that the seriousness of the solutions being offered exemplifies thought, vision, and a healthy dose of complexity.

Juxtapose this with the shallowness and cavalier lack of seriousness that characterizes what passes for Republican ideas. The high-level pandering that substitutes for policy vision on the Republican side of the ledger simply cannot hold a candle to the thoughtful solutions proposed by the Democratic candidates. Why then would Democratic party leaders intentionally attempt to sabotage what is essentially a winning hand? It makes no sense whatsoever.

This is one of those instances where the candidates most likely have a much better sense of the pulse of the public than the strategists and consultants. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley have all indicated they are more than willing to participate in additional debates and they may be on to something that the strategic geniuses in Washington, DC either have no feel for or conveniently dismiss.

The candidates must take control of this election, the stakes are too huge to let the theorists overrule the practitioners. Besides, the Democratic National Committee may actually have very little leverage here under any circumstance but just to be safe I believe it is time for the three campaigns to jointly issue a statement expressing their willingness to engage in more not less debates.

An angry and frustrated electorate has shown a willingness to cave to fear tactics and embrace the carnival-like atmosphere on the right side of the philosophical/political equation. On the left they have surprisingly given a huge boost to the insurgency campaign orchestrated by Bernie Sanders. While all would benefit from a healthy dose of substantive issue-oriented discourse it is not likely that we will see many right-wing converts. However, the all-important independent vote is once again in play and continues to strengthen. The ability to influence those who are either too disgusted with the two-party system or legitimately uncertain about which party or candidate offers the best prescription for curing what ails the country is worth whatever risks are entailed in exposing and debating proposed solutions.

Limiting Democratic issue exposure is an example of a strategy that is simply too clever by half. Any yearning for serious solutions will find great comfort in the direction being offered and refined by all three Democratic candidates. Conversely the lack of substantive offerings under the circus tent of the GOP is in direct response to the fringe elements that have hijacked the political and policy agendas of that party. So to those proffering strategic advice in the higher echelons of decision-making in the DNC it is time to take a cue from the candidates, they have a much better grasp of the landscape than you do. And the free flow of ideas will surely free us all.