On Tuesday’s episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders critiqued the format of the Democratic presidential debate for its inability to give candidates the ability to discuss difficult topics — like health care — with nuance.
“You shouldn’t even call them a debate. What they are is a reality TV show in which you have to come up with a soundbite and all that stuff. It is demeaning,” Sanders told Rogan. “It’s demeaning to the candidates and it’s demeaning to the American people.”
In a set of rules that CNN announced ahead of the televised debates, the network stated that candidates would receive 60 seconds to respond to questions from the moderators and 30 seconds for any responses or rebuttals when named by another candidate. NBC, which hosted the first round of debates in June, similarly gave candidates 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for responses but did not allow any time for any opening statements.
When asked by Rogan on why the debate formats were structured in such a way, Sanders acknowledged that the Democratic National Committee is in a “difficult position” due to the volume of candidates running.
“They want to give everybody a fair shot, which is the right thing to do. And then if you’re going to have 10 candidates up on the stage, what do you do? But there are other ways that we’ve gotta do it because the issues facing this country are so enormous and in some cases so complicated, nobody in the world can honestly explain them in 45 seconds,” Sanders said. “What that encourages people to do is to come up with soundbites and do absurd things. So if I yelled and screamed on this show, I took my clothes off, it would get a lot of publicity, right? But if you give a thoughtful answer to a complicated question, it’s not so sexy for the media.”
Sanders said that the pitfalls of the debates were indicative of a larger problem: “As a nation, we do a pretty bad job in analyzing and discussing the serious issues facing our country. And I hold the media, to some degree, responsible for that.”
The next round of Democratic debates is scheduled to take place in September, and Sanders has qualified for another appearance.