In an election cycle that never ceases to take surprising turns, yet another strange development has come about. Donald Trump recently told Jimmy Kimmel that he would gladly debate Bernie Sanders and furthermore, such a debate ought to benefit charity to the tune of $10 million. Sanders was quick to accept the unprecedented challenge. And now according to Buzzfeed, tech CEO Richie Hecker has offered the $10 million in question in exchange for being able to host the debate.
After Trump issued his challenge during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Sanders took to Twitter to respond.
Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 26, 2016
Although CBS later reported that several sources claimed Trump was only joking about the debate challenge, tech company Traction + Scale has offered to front the money.
This debate would be unprecedented for so many reasons. Perhaps the most obvious is that it’s unheard of for candidates from opposing parties to meet in a debate prior to both having been officially chosen as nominees. Of course, then there’s the money involved. Sure, the $10 million would go to charity, but there still seems to be an issue with the way politics is being used to move money around here, especially given Trump’s recent comments equating wealth with greatness.
Traction + Scale CEO Hecker told Buzzfeed that the debate would give his company the opportunity to showcase their own technology:
‘We would host the debate as a physical event and live stream it to the world. As a technology incubator and investment company, Traction and Scale builds transformative user experiences and will host the debate on our cutting-edge mobile technology. We have distribution to 250MM Americans on social media through this channel.’
Hecker also told Buzzfeed that the offer comes with certain restrictions regarding the debate format:
‘The debate format would focus on compromise and solutions. We would invite the candidates to look at the forum less as a debate, and more as a negotiation for the future of America. We believe that Mr Sanders and Mr Trump collectively represent the voice of the American people. We are confident that convening the voice of the people in a nonpartisan forum will spark the revolution and make America great again.’
And if something seems slightly suspect about the way Hecker’s proposed format echoes Trump’s own campaign slogan, that might have something to do with the politics of the company itself. You see, this isn’t the tech company’s first foray into the presidential election. Previously, Hecker promoted an independent presidential bid by Michael Bloomberg. At the time, he shared his rationale with Buzzfeed:
‘You have both parties, really, in disarray, and they’re rolling out the red carpet. There isn’t any candidate who is promoting a track record. [Bloomberg] can actually operate. He runs the largest media company in New York. And he ran the largest city in the world.’
Hecker may have had a change of heart about Bloomberg, but it still sounds as if this tech CEO is looking to promote more than his company’s technology. There’s a definite political agenda here and a dangerous precedent could be set in terms of both money and power. Does America really want a tech CEO or a corporation dictating the terms of presidential debates? Still, Sanders could have a lot to gain from accepting the offer. He’s been touting his ability to best Trump in the general election and this would certainly give him the chance to show how he means to take on the presumptive GOP nominee.