DNC Debate Rules Forced Diversity Out of the Democratic Presidential Race—and Then They Changed the Rules for a Really Rich White Man

Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

When the race for president began with Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, it was hailed as the most diverse Democratic presidential field in history. By the end of January, damn near every candidate of color had withdrawn from the race. And all of them could cite one culprit as the reason for their withdrawal: the stringent and unwavering debate rules of the Democratic National Committee.


“In the seven months since they were first announced, the standards—a combination of increasingly higher polling and fundraising thresholds—have upended various campaigns’ tactics and become the proximate cause of multiple withdrawals from the race,” is how Politico described it.

And then former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg entered the race.

Bloomberg is an American businessman who has more money than God and, as such, he’s been able to fund his entire campaign himself. And because Bloomberg is rich and was blessed with the complexion of lightly cooked but still raw chicken, “The Democratic National Committee announced Friday that there will be no donor threshold for its upcoming Nevada debate (Feb. 22),” opening an avenue for Bloomberg to participate.

You know who could’ve used this kind of rule-bending? Kamala Harris. Cory Booker. Julián Castro. All of these viable candidates of color running for president could have benefited from a rule change, but the DNC wasn’t playing rule-breaker for them.

All of this got filmmaker Michael Moore fucked up.

“You had to show you had a certain number of Americans that would give you a buck, that’s all the rule said, to show you have support. And that’s how they determine who would be on the debate stage. Today, they removed that rule because [of] Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire, the Republican mayor of New York City,” Moore told a crowd in Des Moines, Iowa, the Nation reports.


Moore, like many who have learned of the rule change, was upset-upset. He pointed out that the scales always seem to tip in the rich white man’s favor.

From the Nation:

He doesn’t have to show he has any support among the American people, he can just buy his way onto the debate stage, and I’m going to tell you what’s so disgusting about this.

I watched the debate in Iowa here two weeks ago—the all-white debate—and the fact [is] that the Democratic, the DNC will not allow Cory Booker on that stage, will not allow Julian Castro on that stage, but they are going to allow Mike Bloomberg on the stage? Because he has a billion fucking dollars!


Sen. Elizabeth Warren was just as annoyed that the DNC was more than willing to change the rules to make sure Bloomberg made a debate stage but were unwilling to do the same for those struggling to meet its arbitrary rules.

“The DNC didn’t change the rules to ensure good, diverse candidates could remain on the debate stage,” Warren tweeted. Both Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders have been vocal about big money’s influence on politics.


“They shouldn’t change the rules to let a billionaire on. Billionaires shouldn’t be allowed to play by different rules—on the debate stage, in our democracy, or in our government.”

The Nation notes that Castro, who is now backing Warren, was also annoyed at the DNC’s flip-flopping bullshit.


“When [New Jersey Senator] Cory Booker led an effort to change the debate thresholds, the DNC refused—saying they couldn’t benefit any candidate,” Castro said. “It seems the only candidate they’re willing to benefit is a billionaire who’s buying his way into the race. Total mess.”

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.



Hello Root brethren, our progressive candidates teams and allies went to the DNC and asked for them to change the rules to allow Bloomberg in so they could take him on. This is some wonderful political theater.

Progressive allies of Elizabeth Warren have approached the Democratic National Committee to lobby for an unusual cause: including billionaire Mike Bloomberg in upcoming presidential primary debates.

The move, described to POLITICO by a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, reflects the desire of liberal activists to pin down the former New York mayor, who has avoided verbal combat with his opponents by waging a self-funded campaign that plays by its own rules. But the entreaty also speaks to progressives’ growing unease with Bloomberg’s relative success: After spending hundreds of millions of dollars, he has vaulted into double digits in national polls and amassed a giant staff of A-level operatives.

Bloomberg has focused his money and manpower on President Donald Trump, while rarely taking aim at fellow Democrats. At the same time, he has pledged to turn his record-shattering personal spending spigot on for whomever emerges as the Democratic nominee.

His rise is now stirring growing anxieties among some of his biggest detractors, who maintain that his white knight pledges should not insulate him from critiques and what they consider a standard vetting process.

“He has a long history of big-money self-promotion, but he wants to play senior statesmen and try to get people to believe he’s just taking one for the team,” said Zephyr Teachout, a law professor who has run for statewide office in New York and is aligned with Bernie Sanders.

“But he’s spending hundreds of millions because he wants the most powerful job in the world, and he needs the full treatment,” she added, pointing to his positions on foreign policy and Social Security and his long mayoral record.

Adam Green, of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said he approached the DNC last month to talk about including Bloomberg in future debates. Bloomberg’s polling meets the party’s criteria for inclusion, but his refusal to raise money from outside donors — even in minuscule increments — means he can’t meet the qualifying threshold. Green proposed altering the rules so that Bloomberg would be included.

“Imagine a hypothetical world where Bloomberg bought himself 30 percent and he’s the frontrunner in the polls. Would you really not think voters would want to hear what he has to say and see him get some scrutiny on the debate stage?” Green asked.

“I think he’ll inherently get more scrutiny when he’s playing in the same sandbox,” he added. “But there’s still more scrutiny that can come now and voters want it.”