Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) take part in the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27 in Miami.

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) take part in the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27 in Miami.

At the end of July, Democratic candidates will debate again. The format will be largely similar to the one held at the end of June — two different sets of candidates will take the stage on two nights.

But the way CNN announced the debate groups drew criticism. They televised the drawing and analyzed the groupings before, during and after they were made.

From The Ringer:

But we don’t typically see politics eventized to quite this degree. “I understand the impulse to create interest and drama and attention, to drive viewership to the event,” says Mark Lukasiewicz, the dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University. “But I think it contributes to an overall gamification of the primary debate process, and I don’t think that’s ultimately a positive. I think it’s a serious thing to bring these candidates together and introduce
them to the country, in many ways for the first time, and I’m not sure a lotto determining who goes on what night or who stands in what place is the best way to do that.”

The New York Times critic James Poniewozik was a little more blunt:

It was a rare chance to see a network generate punditry and render it useless in real time. When the drawing was two-thirds done, CNN’s political director, David Chalian, declared, “Tuesday night is going to be moderate night!” Then, left-leaning Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were added to the lineup, and suddenly it wasn’t.

This wasn’t covering the news. This was manufacturing the news, while commenting on the dexterity and suspense with which CNN was creating it. It was political journalism as Penn & Teller act.

The standards for the third debate of the Democratic candidates will be far higher. That means that the upcoming event is the last chance some long-shot candidates will get to prove themselves.

Further, the ratings of last month’s debate were at a record high.

Have the debates turned into more of an exercise in entertainment? What’s the purpose of these debates?

We talk about all that and more.

Guests

  • Brian Stelter Host, CNN’s 'Reliable Sources'; senior media correspondent, CNN Worldwide; @brianstelter
  • Xochitl Hinojosa Communications director, Democratic National Committee; @XochitlHinojosa

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