Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated: Fri, 14 Jan 2022 01:35:53 GMT
On Thursday, the Republican National Committee threatened to keep its 2024 presidential nominee from participating in the three traditional general election debates unless and until the debates are adjusted more to their liking.
"So long as the [Commission on Presidential Debates] appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the R.N.C. will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a letter to the commission.
At the heart of McDaniel's demands are for the RNC to have much more say in who moderates the three general election debates between the two major-party nominees every four years. That demand echoes former President Donald Trump's complaints about the 2020 debate moderators, who, he insisted without any real evidence, were biased against him.
Trump refused to participate in the second scheduled debate in 2020 after the commission decided it should be held virtually to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
"The commission changed the debate style and that's not acceptable to us," Trump said at the time, adding of Joe Biden: "I beat him in the first debate. I beat him easily."
This gambit by the RNC is simply the latest evidence that the Republican Party seems entirely at ease with following Trump -- who has repeatedly signaled a plan to run for president again in 2024 -- down any and every conspiracy theory rabbit hole.
The Commission on Presidential Debates -- since its formation in 1987-- has been a nonpartisan organization that has preferred to stay almost entirely behind the scenes.
One of its two co-chairmen is Frank Fahrenkopf, who served as the chairman of the RNC from 1983 to 1989. (The other co-chair, Kenneth Wollack, is a foreign policy expert with a background in journalism.)
There's just no there there when it comes to these allegations of bias from Trump. And yet the RNC has now thrown its weight behind this absurd claim from the former President because, well, there is no Republican Party these days outside of Trump (and his whims).
The Point: This move by the RNC is rightly read as the latest example of Trump's successful erosion of any sense that nonpartisan entities can (and do) exist. For him, everyone is either for him or against him -- and he's decided the Commission on Presidential Debates is against him.