The Republican National Committee voted last week to boycott presidential primary debates held by television networks NBC and CNN if they continue with productions of a Hillary Clinton mini-series and documentary respectively. Yes, the party that gave us what felt like 842 debates in the 2012 primaries has decided to limit its participation this time to Fox News and possibly ABC and CBS.
And why? Because the GOP angrily charges that these productions will be "puff pieces," "extended infomercials" and a "thumb on the scales" in the upcoming 2016 presidential election for which Clinton is the presumed Democratic frontrunner. "Political ads masked as unbiased entertainment," the RNC draft resolution claims.
"We're done putting up with this nonsense," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. "There are plenty of other outlets. We'll still reach voters, maybe more voters. But CNN and NBC anchors will just have to watch on their competitors' networks. The media overplayed their hand this time."
Seems Priebus has finally figured out that the GOP stands a better chance of winning elections if it stops its candidates from actually speaking. And considering the last crop of GOP hopefuls, keeping these boneheads out of debates and off of mainstream television screens seems to be making more sense as well.
But the RNC's position here is puzzling and counter-intuitive. For on thing, the results of the last election demonstrate a dire need by the GOP to expand its reach among voters not contract it. Shrinking its audience to largely Fox News does little to help broaden its base. The party's message (whatever that is) must be heard by more than the rabid conservatives watching Fox if its ever to rebuild its brand and expand its tent.
Limiting its audience punishes the lesser-known, under-financed candidates who need as much free air-time as possible. What the party would be left with is a select group of elitists who have the visibility, name-recognition and wealth to fuel their own campaigns outside of the debate arena.
The GOP, ironically, also runs the risk of having its debates themselves viewed as infomercials. Imagine a Republican debate, on Fox, and moderated by the likes of Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh (as the party wants). Who but the red-meat-gorging Foxies would want to watch that softball-filled farce?
Most perplexing is that Priebus is crying foul without even knowing the ultimate content of these productions; programs, mind you, which Clinton herself has said she prefers not be aired. Apparently she doesn't think hours of rehashed Bill/Monica, Hillary/Obama campaign drama (including charges of racist comments by her and Bill), Benghazi and more would amount to a free "infomercial" for her campaign. And she's right. It's reasonable to expect that both productions could dredge up enough semi-dormant Clinton controversy to negatively impact her. So for the RNC to go absolutely RepubliBonkers over programming which it knows little about seems monumentally ill-advised.
Lastly, the RNC's actions really aren't much of a surprise. For years now, Republicans have attempted to subvert America's democratic election process in any way they can....limiting the public's access to candidates and disenfranchising voters. This strategy runs so counter to what previous elections have taught them. It's become truly fascinating to watch the GOP implode despite all it knows it needs to do to turn around its disastrous fate. Republicans simply can't help themselves.
In the end, Priebus' lame-stream media paranoia serves no purpose other than to fire up an already blazing base. It's an embarrassing waste of time and energy which will yield nothing. If NBC and CNN ultimately sponsor debates and extend invitations to the Republican candidates, you can be sure these media-hungry carnival barkers will take their desired place at the podium.