Jonathan Martin reports in the New York Times that the RNC has moved aggressively to reduce the number of debates Republican candidates for president will have to endure.
The Republican National Committee moved Friday to seize control of the presidential primary debates in 2016, another step in a coordinated effort by the party establishment to reshape the nominating process.
Committee members overwhelmingly passed a measure that would penalize any presidential candidate who participated in a debate not sanctioned by the national party, by limiting their participation in subsequent committee-sanctioned forums.
The move represents the party’s effort to reduce the number of debates and assert control over how they are staged.
In making the case for adopting the new rule, party officials repeatedly criticized the moderators and format of the 2012 primary debates, appealing to the suspicions that many Republican activists have about the mainstream news media. “The liberal media doesn’t deserve to be in the driver’s seat,” said the committee’s chairman, Reince Priebus, addressing committee members here at their spring meeting.
This means that underdog candidates will have to weigh the advantages of appearing in unsanctioned forums versus the disadvantages of being blocked from sanctioned forums. Of course, that’s an easy decision if you haven’t been invited to the sanctioned forums in the first place.
It’s smart for the Republicans to do this, but their distrust of the mainstream media is just one more manifestation of their divorce from reality, which really took place no later than Sarah Palin’s appearance on the national stage.
When being asked what papers you read is too hard of a question, mistrust builds up in a hurry. If the Republicans are hoping to go through debate season without anyone ever puncturing their right-wing media fantasy bubble, these reforms are not going to be fully productive. And, in any case, if the candidates are cheering the death penalty and talking about the sanctity of marriage and how “severe” their conservatism is, and the wisdom of a self-deportation immigration policy then it won’t matter who the moderator happens to be.
It’s true that the Republicans had too many debates, but so did the Democrats. And it didn’t appear to hurt the Democrats at all. It made Obama a better debater.
It says something that the GOP wants to have a primary season without allowing anyone to watch or question what they are doing.