The Democrats’ debate deficit

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a community forum on healthcare, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, at Moulton Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Republican presidential field is so crowded that the first two debates were divided into “undercard” and main-event forums based on poll standing.

The GOP front-runner is an insufferable braggart whose rash rhetoric upstages the other candidates.

So it’s no surprise that many critics gave low marks to the party’s debates on Aug. 6 and Sept. 16. But the two main events starring that loudmouth poll leader did generate high television ratings.

They also gave millions of viewers chances to begin the self-governing task of assessing the Republicans seeking our nation’s highest elective office.

The GOP has nine more debates scheduled for a total of 11 before the primary season’s end. That includes one in Greenville on Feb. 13, a week before the South Carolina primary.

The Democrats, though, have only six debates set, starting on Oct. 13 in Las Vegas, with the fourth coming here in Charleston on Jan. 17.

And Thursday’s Boston Globe reported: “The lopsided schedule has left Democrats standing on the sidelines over the last few weeks while Republicans dominate news cycle after news cycle with their exchanges.”

So why are the Democrats yielding the debate ground to the GOP?

Because front-runner Hillary Clinton wants to minimize challengers’ opportunities to present themselves as viable alternatives to her — especially in the light of rising calls for Vice President Joe Biden to enter the race.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a longtime ally of Mrs. Clinton, chairs the Democratic National Committee, which makes the call on the number of debates.

According to the Globe, “at a meeting of state Democrats last weekend in New Hampshire,” Ms. Schultz “was drowned out by chants from the audience demanding more debates.”

Such demands have been encouraged by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has shown poll strength as a long-shot while rising to second place behind Mrs. Clinton.

The self-described socialist launched an online petition drive last month for more debates, fairly writing:

“The American people deserve more debates — debates about how we got to where we are today, and how we move this country forward. And if all the candidates running for the Democratic nomination, especially Secretary Clinton, call for more, then we’ll get them.”

So how did we get “to where we are today” and how can we “move this country forward”?

And how can we coherently answer those crucial questions — and choose our next president — without extensive debate in both parties?