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Oct 25 2011

The RNC Should Stand Up for Fair Debates

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Spending money to advance insider candidates and incumbents is not the only way that Republican Party organizations have contributed to corrupting the electoral process.  In many cases they have not only failed to stand up for fair treatment for qualified candidates, but they have colluded with the media to exclude candidates who challenge the status quo from the debates and other public forums. The primary debates are one of the best ways for candidates to raise public awarness of their campaigns and their issues.  Party organizations and the media are using their control over the  debates to pick winners and losers, give advantages to some candidates and relegating others to obscurity.

The current example of this is the decision of the news media, state parties and the RNC to exclude several well qualified candidates from participation in the presidential debates, while including others who are arguably less well qualified, but perhaps more representative of the party elite viewpoint or the kind of views which the media would prefer to use to label the Republican Party.

The most significant example of this is the exclusion of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson from all but two of the debates which have been held so far. This has been so blatant that there are now common references to the “Gary Johnson Rule” which dictates that whenever Governor Johnson comes close to qualifying for a debate you have to add a new criteria explicitly designed to exclude him and no other candidates. Other candidates are also being excluded, like Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer and longitime GOP activist Fred Karger, but Johnson’s situation is the most blatant. He is the only candidate who is both well qualified based on his past record and also regularly polling as high as or higher than several candidates who are being allowed in the debates, particularly John Huntsman and Rick Santorum.  And based on this he has even been allowed in two of the debates, though he was arbitrarily excluded from the rest.

In response to not being invited to the recent debate in Las Vegas, Governor Johnson directed an attack specifically at the news media, saying:

“Debates, such as the one this week in Las Vegas, are supposed to be opportunities for voters to see the candidates, hear their views, and judge their qualifications without the distortions of money, recognition and favoritism”However, when organizing those debates is left to the national news media, the result has been an absurd Catch-22. Invitations to participate in the debates are based upon arbitrary polling criteria decided in the conference rooms of media organizations such as CNN or NBC or the Washington Post…Even worse, the same organizations who organize the debates are the ones who conduct the polls upon which their invitations are based. In my case, most of those organizations do not include me in their polling. The net result is that a handful of media executives have largely denied Republicans the opportunity to hear from a former governor whose record clearly merits their consideration.”

He also appealed to the Republican National Committee to exert some influence to restore fairness to the process:

“Never did it occur to me that I would be excluded from the conversation; however, that is precisely what is happening – and I believe the Republican National Committee bears some responsibility for what is going on…I recognize that the RNC is not in the business of helping one candidate for the nomination or another. However, I would suggest that it is the business of the RNC to ensure that the Republican nominating process is not ceded to the likes of CNN and the Washington Post…As a lifelong Republican and a former Republican governor, I would suggest that allowing the national news media – who do not have the best interests of the Republican Party in mind – to pre-select the presidential field is nothing less than irresponsible…With the early Republican primaries and caucuses fast approaching, I urge you to exert some leadership and reclaim the nominating process from the national news media who are today pre-ordaining the viability and success of candidates. “It is Republican voters who ultimately lose when the process is skewed, and serving the interests of those voters is, in fact, your responsibility, as is the integrity of the nominating process.”

So far this plea has fallen on deaf ears. It is clear that the Republican National Committee has little interest in supporting anything other than more of the same. They are ignoring the clear message of the Tea Party movement and demographic trends which promise a grim future for their party and sacrificing the possibility of a larger, stronger and more inclusive party to preserve a status quo of big government, corruption and crony capitalism.

Apparently it is not enough for the political establishment and their elite allies to buy and sell elections through our corrupt campaign finance process. They also have to use the power of the media to decide which candidates the public even gets to hear from in the debates. For the RNC, which has a responsibility to steward the party and is answerable to its members, this may be a serious mistake. With the membership of the party aging and moving farther and farther from the political mainstream, the Republican party is desperately in need of new blood. It needs to attract young voters and independents, and the small-government, pro-liberty message which Gov. Johnson offers has a strong appeal to those groups.

In the interest of keeping the same interest groups and leaders in control of the party the RNC seems ready to throw away the party’s future.The party they so desperately want to keep under their control will become smaller and less relevant as the country moves on. They seem to have embraced Satan’s maxim from Paradise Lost. They would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven. In making that short-sighted choice they have failed in their one fundamental function. They have failed to lead.

If you share our concern and want to see the RNC and other party organizations giving every candidate a far chance, sign the Fair Primary Pledge on our main page.

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