Dear Debate Moderators …

The New York Times Opinions 3 weeks ago

Dear Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker and Kristen Welker:

Please don’t start with Medicare.

The four of you will be moderating tonight’s Democratic debate in Atlanta. And I’m hoping you can avoid the Medicare obsession that has dominated the previous debates.

At every one of the six debates so far, Medicare has taken up a big chunk of the first half-hour, when the viewing audience is typically largest. In total, the candidates have spent almost 100 minutes onstage talking about the subject, more than they’ve spent on climate change, voting rights and tax policy, combined. Combined!

I know you need to ask about Medicare at some point, because the candidates will want to debate Elizabeth Warren’s newly detailed plan. I’m also interested to see whether Joe Biden can show better command of the subject than he has so far. But I hope you’ll save the Medicare conversation for the debate’s second hour. Even with Warren’s new proposal, much of the argument is predictable at this point.

And there are so many other subjects to discuss.

How do the candidates think they’ll succeed in passing a sweeping climate bill even though Barack Obama failed? (Climate change will probably have a bigger long-term effect on Americans’ health than Medicare policy.) Which candidates oppose a wealth tax, and how would they instead raise taxes on the rich? Do they all favor statehood for the District of Columbia? How would their China policy differ from President Trump’s?

Do they think Pete Buttigieg is experienced enough to be president? Do they agree with Cory Booker that closing charter schools can hurt children? Why do they each think they can recapture the Midwestern states that swung to Trump in 2016, and what’s their plan for doing so?

At times, this year’s debate season has made it seem as if the candidates were running for president of Medicare. It would be great if the four of you could restore some balance tonight.


David Leonhardt

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