The Democratic Party Should Set Higher Standards | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by David Faris during a Newsweek episode of The Debate about quality control within political parties. You can listen to the podcast here:

I think that Tulsi Gabbard is representative of a problem that stemmed from decisions that the [Democratic] Party made as part of the 2019-2020 presidential debate cycle. I don't think she's a symbol of party dysfunction, per se; I think she's a symbol of over-inclusiveness, in terms of who they invited to be part of these primary debates.

Those primary debates, especially when you're the "out" party, are just a wonderful opportunity for your members of your party to introduce themselves to the public — for party elites and leaders to exercise some some control over who appears on that stage, because whoever appears on that stage is going to be indelibly associated with the party for a long time. And my position is that they set those qualifications way too low in 2019, and ended up with four or five people who are now haunting the party like a Demogorgon, by having left the party and causing all sorts of other trouble.

The Demogorgon in all its faceless glory. Netflix

It's Tulsi Gabbard's right to do whatever she wants. But I think that the Democratic Party should should think harder about setting the bar a little bit higher, the next time they have an open primary like that, to avoid getting people who have zero or 1% support or are about to leave the party. It's like a bag of potato chips, you know? It feels good in the moment, and in the long run, it could hurt you.

I'm not gonna deny that listening to Marianne Williamson talk was entertaining, right? Like, I was entertained. The problem is, [I] have to think about whether I want my political party, the fortunes of my political party, tied to the kind of people that I'm inviting up there on stage, right? I think the reality is that these debates in the primary process have almost never elevated someone who was completely unknown anyway. And so the idea that Marianne Williamson or Andrew Yang needs to introduce themselves to the voters in order to get their support… I think it just doesn't hold up.

I appreciate the argument that it's entertaining. I think that the parties, though, have to be cognizant that there are really, really high stakes for these elections, and that they can't really afford to sacrifice the gravity of that for entertainment value.

David Faris is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University and the author of It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. His writing has appeared in The Week, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Washington Monthly and more. You can find him on Twitter @davidmfaris.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.