Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Thursday, the Republican National Committee made good on its months-old threat to pull its candidates from events sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The RNC had previously complained that the commission, which was founded by Democrats and Republicans in 1987 with the sole purpose of organizing nonpartisan debates, had been unresponsive to complaints about the treatment of former President Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election cycle.
After a unanimous vote, the organization announced it would remove its candidates from all future CPD-backed events.
“Today, the RNC voted to withdraw from the biased CPD,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement, “and we are going to find newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people.”
Today, the RNC voted to withdraw from the biased CPD, and we are going to find newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people. pic.twitter.com/v8YdXyr3wX
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) April 14, 2022
According to the Wall Street Journal, the resolution will force Republican candidates to agree, in writing, to only appear in debates sanctioned by the RNC.
The crux of the RNC’s objections to the CPD’s 2020 track record were:
- Not hosting a debate until after the start of early voting in 26 states
- Changing debate formats (most notably attempting to make the second debate virtual)
- Selecting a moderator (C-SPAN’s Steve Scully) who had once worked for Joe Biden
- Criticisms of then-President Trump by CPD board members
Scully did not ultimately moderate a debate as Trump refused to participate when the format was changed to virtual in the wake of the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to free and fair debates,” McDaniel said. “The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage.”
The CPD has not yet offered a response to the RNC’s decision. The organization had previously stated it took Republican complaints seriously but had also bristled at requests from the right.
“In furtherance of our position as a nonpartisan, neutral body, which neither favors nor disfavors any party or candidate, we do not negotiate the terms or conditions of our operations with anyone,” a December letter from the CPD to the RNC reads.
The Democratic National Committee, through a tweet from Chairman Jaime Harrison, took a decidedly strident stance.
“Typical CYA,” Harrison tweeted, “you didn’t pass a party platform… your leader praises Putin… your members hang out at cocaine orgies… actively trying to destroy Medicare, ACA & Social Security… rampant voter suppression … can fully understand why you don’t want a debate. #FraudFearFascism”
The RNC responded to accusations of debate dodging with a tweet of its own.
“The GOP is not walking away from debates,” the tweet reads. “We are walking away from the Commission on Presidential Debates. It is biased and does not serve the interest of the American people.”
The RNC has not yet offered any indication as to how it will establish a new debate format, and even after it does, Democrats would have to agree for the event to be fruitful.
Were the two parties to not reach an agreement on debate formats, there is a chance the 2024 election cycle could pass without a Democrat-versus-Republican debate.
While thoughts of an election cycle without debates might seem foreign to modern Americans, the concept was actually a mid-20th century innovation spurred by the advent of television. The first presidential debate in U.S. history was between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960.
Before that moment, the parties had staged the occasional primary debate on radio, but presidential candidates of opposite parties had never faced off. Franklin D. Roosevelt famously refused to debate when Wendell Wilkie challenged him to a debate in 1940.