The presidential debates are a microcosm of the media crisis.
Media forums that were formerly biased have become overtly hostile campaigns that function as proxies for Democrats and the Left. Republicans face a choice between opting out of interactions with the media or trying to do so on their own terms. There’s a reluctance to cede the media space wholly to the Left. But at the same time playing in that space is often a disaster.
Presidential debates are the one forum that is supposed to be bipartisan, but that has degenerated into leftist media personalities taking shots at Republicans and putting out leftist agenda items as the topics.
Is change possible? Maybe not. And not without a lot of hardball.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel Tuesday warned she may advise future presidential candidates against joining debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) unless the group makes significant changes.
The letter from McDaniel follows a flood of criticism from former President Trump during the 2020 race complaining that format adjustments to health guidance during the coronavirus pandemic were unfair. McDaniel laid out a slate of changes she believes must be made and threatened that Republicans will be advised to boycott CPD-hosted debates if they are not.
“The CPD’s repeated missteps and the partisan actions of its Board Members make clear that the organization no longer provides the fair and impartial forum for presidential debates which the law requires and the American people deserve,” McDaniel wrote.
“Our sincere hope is that the CPD accepts this criticism and works to correct its mistakes,” she added. “If not, the RNC will have no choice but to advise future Republican candidates against participating in CPD-hosted debates, and the RNC will look for other options for its candidates to debate the issues before the American people in a neutral and nonpartisan forum.”
McDaniel demanded a slate of changes, including placing term limits on CPD’s board of directors, enacting a “code of conduct” barring CPD staff from making public comments in support or opposition to any candidate, committing to hosting at least one debate before the start of early voting in any state and publicizing criteria for selecting moderators.
This is interesting I suppose, institutionally, but I’m not sure what it’s going to really change.
What would be ideal would be replacing the current system with an arrangement between both campaigns, a list of topics submitted by both sides, a set of rules agreed on by both sides, with a neutral apolitical moderator picked from the worlds of arbitration or the judiciary, whose own rules forbid him from any significant intervention beyond enforcing the existing rules.
The media would never accept this even though this is what the CPD is in theory supposed to oversee. It wants its pet journalists there making a name for themselves by going after Republicans. That’s how it defines its entire agenda now. And it wants to discuss racial justice, the environment, sexism, and the rest of the list of its agenda topics, while demanding to know, “Have you stopped being a racist?”
Democrats benefit from this arrangement and will do everything possible to keep it going.
And yet the only hope for real change is if Republicans actually refuse to continue working with the CPD until the GOP gets an equal shot at the list of topics and gets an impartial moderator.
Debates do mean media exposure, but both primary and general election debates seem to do as much harm as good.