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“A Very Undemocratic Way to Run the Democratic Party”: Martin O’Malley Slams DNC for Rigging Debates

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Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is urging supporters to rally next week in front of the Democratic National Committee office to protest the DNC’s debate schedule, which allows for six Democratic debates, only four of which will be held before the Iowa caucuses in February. The former Maryland governor joins us in studio to talk about his call for more debates.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley’s campaign sent out emails urging supporters to join a rally scheduled for next week in front of the Democratic National Committee office in Washington, D.C. No, the rally is not a campaign event. It’s to protest the DNC’s debate schedule, which allows for six Democratic debates, four of which will be held before the Iowa caucuses in February. Martin O’Malley also criticized the schedule last month at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in Minneapolis.

MARTIN O’MALLEY: Four debates. Four debates? Four debates. Four debates, and four debates only, we are told—not asked—before voters in our earliest states make their decision. This is totally unprecedented in our party’s history. This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before. Whose decree is this exactly? Where did it come from? To what end? For what purpose? What national or party interest does this decree serve? How does this help us tell the story of the last eight years of Democratic progress? How does this promote our Democratic ideas for making wages go up and household incomes go up again, instead of down?

AMY GOODMAN: It’s not the first time the former governor of Maryland has expressed concern about the political process. In May, when he announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Martin O’Malley voiced indirect criticism of fellow candidates Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

MARTIN O’MALLEY: The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you, between two royal families. It is a sacred trust to be earned from the American people and exercised on behalf of of the people of these United States. The only way we are going to rebuild the American dream is if we retake control of our own American government.

AMY GOODMAN: While the latest polls put Martin O’Malley behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race, underdog status is not new to Martin O’Malley. In 1999, he defeated two African-American candidates and won one-third of the black vote to become mayor of the predominantly black city of Baltimore. He went on to serve two terms as mayor, then was elected for two terms as governor of Maryland. Now he’s running for president.

Martin O’Malley, welcome to Democracy Now!

MARTIN O’MALLEY: Thank you, Amy, Juan. Good to see you again.

AMY GOODMAN: So you are supporting this protest outside the Democratic National Committee. Explain exactly what you’re demanding.

MARTIN O’MALLEY: Sure. What I’m demanding is what the Democratic Party has in the past been very good at, and that is actually holding presidential debates and letting the people of the United States know what our leaders had to offer by way of ideas that serve, that actually move every American family forward, that get wages to go up, that make college more affordable, so that our economy can work again for all of us. And right now what we’ve seen is this edict from the chair of the DNC, and I believe that DNC members were not even consulted. Some of the breaking news today is that two vice chairs of the DNC have actually stepped forward and said, “You know what? This is not good for our party. It’s not good for our country. How are we going to make our case if we limit debates?” Or worse, I mean, the one debate that they’re having in New Hampshire, in a very cynical way, was stuck on a Saturday night right before Christmas at the height of shopping and holiday season. I can only imagine that the next decree from the chair will be that you can only watch Democratic presidential debates by subscribing to Netflix. I mean, this is ridiculous. Meanwhile, 24 million people tune in to that carnival barker Donald Trump and all his hateful rhetoric about immigrants and new American immigrants, and we need to push back against this. So, I’m looking forward to having more debates. I intend to go to as many as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: So what are the rules exactly? What are—

MARTIN O’MALLEY: The rules are these, that there shall only be one debate in Iowa and only one debate in New Hampshire, and anybody that goes off script or participates in other debates, other than those sanctioned by the DNC, will be forbidden from attending other debates. It is a very undemocratic way to run the Democratic Party. We have important issues to talk about, and people are looking for solutions. And this much I know, from the time I have spent in Iowa and New Hampshire, and I think the latest polling shows this: This race is wide open in the Democratic Party. And it does not serve our party well to circle the wagons around the inevitable front-runner as she continues her downward descent. What would serve our party is actually to have debates and speak to that yearning that people have for new leadership and an ability to get things done. That’s the phrase I hear all across the country. We need to get things done again.

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