The two-night Democratic presidential debate held in Detroit, Michigan, which was hosted by CNN, has some top Democrats worried that what makes for great television will ultimately lessen the party’s chances of defeating President Donald Trump in 2020.
Sen. Chuck Schumer expressed concern on Thursday over how the debates made the candidates appear to the public, given the healthy amount of vicious showdowns on the debate stage, adding that it’s nothing more than a trap that would benefit Trump.
“If we get all focused on the differences between, say Bernie [Sanders] and Cory [Booker] and Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] and [John] Hickenlooper, we’ll lose sight of the fact that it’s Donald Trump who’s now trying to reduce health care, destroy health care, get it rid for everybody,” Schumer told SiriusXM’s Joe Madison.
According to The Hill, in what could have been a warning to the Democratic candidates, Schumer also said, “no circular firing squads.”
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy trained his blame on the debate moderators for the increased amount of negativity, especially on night two, which featured constant attacks on former vice president Joe Biden.
“I think these debates are really silly,” he said. “Just the incessant focus on these relative minor divisions between candidates might make for good TV but I don’t think gives people an accurate portrayal of the stakes of this election.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein also weighed in and expressed “concern” at the increasing harsh attacks against leading candidates like Biden, adding that her party is a “party of ideas” and that “everyone should sort of consider that.”
“People take sides and then they become hyper sensitive and that just makes divisions all over the party and we don’t want that,” she said. “I want every one of our candidates to do well,” Feinstein said.
The California senator also worried that the candidates were using their most lethal political attacks far too early in the campaign process and explained that those kinds of attacks are usually reserved for the last weeks before Americans head to the voting booths.
Sen. Joe Manchin echoed Feinstein’s thoughts, calling the back-and-forth attacks during the debate “awful” and urging the Democratic candidates to run on ideas instead.
“It’s not who I am, it’s not what I believe in, I don’t think it helps anybody — to attack each other and try to annihilate each other,” he said. “It’s just awful. The whole scenario is bad.”
According to The New York Times, only seven of the 20 Democratic candidates who debated this week are eligible for the next debate because of a stricter barrier to entry. The debates will be held in Houston, Texas, on September 12 and 13.
If fewer than 10 candidates qualify for the Houston debate, it will only take place on one night.