I didn’t think this would happen in my lifetime or ever, but as the RNC’s letter makes clear, they exhausted every good faith option with the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The RNC’s concerns strike at the core of whether the CPD credibly can provide a fair and impartial forum for presidential debates. The CPD’s failures, which the RNC has outlined, are fundamental. These include:
• Waiting until after early voting had already begun to host the first presidential debate;
• Making unilateral changes to previously agreed-upon debate formats and conditions, in some cases without even notifying the candidates;
• Selecting a moderator who had once worked for the Democrat nominee, a glaring conflict of interest; and
• Failing to maintain the organization’s strict nonpartisanship, with a majority of its Board Members publicly disparaging the Republican nominee.
The CPD must address these glaring failures if the organization is to have any credibility with the Republican Party and its 74 million voters moving forward. To do this, the CPD should enact the following much-needed reforms:
• Adopt term limits for its Board of Directors, several members of which have served for more than a decade;
• Commit to holding at least one debate before the start of early voting, and in no case after the deadline for states to mail absentee ballots to uniformed and overseas voters;
• Enact a code of conduct prohibiting CPD officers, directors, and staff from making public comments supporting or opposing any candidate, or otherwise engaging in partisan political activity in connection with the presidential election, with meaningful consequences for violations;
• Establish transparent criteria for selecting debate moderators that would disqualify individuals from consideration who have apparent conflicts of interest due to personal, professional, or partisan factors; and
• Enact a transparent code of conduct for moderators in conducting debates, including guidelines for appropriate interactions with the participating nominees, with meaningful penalties for violations.
These proposals are common sense solutions for an organization whose unique, nonpartisan role in American elections requires it to stand above the political fray.
They are common-sense proposals. And the CPD’s response was to declare that its proceedings were private, that it would conduct internal reviews and then do what it liked anyway.
The CPD used to be legitimate. Or at least it used to run debates in a professional manner. And then it went hyper-partisan resulting in rigged debates, moderators openly colluding with the Dem candidate, and moderators who were utterly and wholly inappropriate.
The CPD blew off the RNC, gambling that the Republicans would just continue to go along. Instead the RNC is barring candidates from participating in CPD debates.
The Ronna McDaniel letter concludes, “The RNC has a duty to ensure that its future presidential nominees have the opportunity to debate their opponents on a level playing field. So long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere. Accordingly, the RNC will initiate the process of amending the Rules of the Republican Party at our upcoming Winter Meeting to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates.”
If this goes through, it’s a power move that destroys the functionality of the CPD. How the CPD and its media allies will respond is a question, but there’s a compelling argument that publicity is not worth the cost of participating in a rigged process intended to destroy Republican candidates.
We’ve been circling this drain since the Candy Crowley incident. And considering that Ronna is Mitt Romney’s niece, there may have been a certain amount of vindication in delivering the message.
It’s still likely a bargaining tactic to get the CPD to come to the table, but considering the debate horrors of 2012, 2016, and 2020, it would not be a bad thing if Republicans did not have to play the CPD game anymore.
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