Debbie Wasserman Schultz has drawn the ire of progressives around the country for scheduling the 2016 Democratic presidential debates at times when few Americans are likely to tune in. (Keith Srakocic / AP)

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, described by The Nation magazine journalist John Nichols as “one of the most respected independent progressive figures within the Democratic orbit,” is circulating a petition calling for the Democratic National Committee, led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to schedule additional Democratic debates—and during times of the week when Americans are likely to watch.

“The Democratic National Committee has scheduled fewer than half the debates the Republicans have scheduled, and also put them on weekends when few people are likely to watch (the next one will be on a Sunday during the NFL playoffs, during the three-day MLK Jr. birthday weekend). Again by contrast, the Republicans have made sure their debates are in prime time,” Reich explains on his Facebook page. “As a result, Republicans are getting lots of free TV time for their right-wing ideas and brainless policies, while Democrats get little time for ideas and policies that should be front and center. Republican debates are making the headlines, while Democratic debates are buried. Republican lies and misinformation shape the public’s understanding of what’s at stake in the 2016 election, while real issues and the important facts are sidelined.”

Reich’s petition, which he released with the activist group “Democracy for America,” reads:

Saturday night’s [December 19] Democratic presidential primary debate was striking. It was all about substance and logic—in sharp contrast to Republican debates that have been all name-calling and posturing.

It was the kind of debate that could have really gotten voters excited about the Democratic Party. But because of when it was scheduled, almost nobody saw it.

And the bad scheduling looks like it is just going to keep getting worse. The next Democratic debate will be Sunday, January 17—on a three-day holiday weekend, scheduled at the same time as a major NFL playoff game.

Tell [Democratic National Committee chair] Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to schedule additional debates.

Nichols called attention to Reich’s petition at The Nation. He adds, “More than 100,000 Americans have signed the petition—which echoes calls from former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for more debates—and the number is rising rapidly.”

Nichols adds:

The fight for more debates ought not to be limited to the Democratic primary process.

Activists should also be fighting for more debates once the parties have nominated their candidates for president.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a joint project of Democratic and Republican party insiders, currently has control of the fall presidential debates—along with the television networks. The commission has a history of narrowing the number of debates, limiting the number of candidates who can participate and selecting moderators and panelists who constrain rather than expand the range of debate.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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