The Republican Party is seriously considering replacing journalist debate moderators with conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
The Washington Examiner is reporting that:
The Republican National Committee, already threatening to block CNN and NBC from hosting 2016 primary debates if they air planned features on Hillary Clinton, is also looking to scrap the old model of having reporters and news personalities ask the questions at candidate forums.
Miffed that their candidates were singled out for personal questions or CNN John King’s “This or That,” when he asked candidates quirky questions like “Elvis or Johnny Cash,” GOP insiders tell Secrets that they are considering other choices, even a heavyweight panel of radio bigs Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.
They told Secrets that they are eager to bring in questioners who understand Republican policies and beliefs and who have the ability to get candidates to differentiate their positions on core conservative values.
Party boss Reince Priebus earlier this month also told conservative radio’s fast-rising star Andrea Tantaros that he would be open to a talk radio debate including her, Hannity and Levin. “I actually think that’s a very good idea,” Priebus said on the Andrea Tantaros Show. “I mean, there’s a lot of good people out there that can actually understand the base of the Republican Party, the primary voters.”
Talk radio is one of the driving forces that’s pushing the Republican Party to the extreme right. The RNC thinks that the solution to their problems is to have debates moderated by people that will push their candidates to the extreme right. A candidate that wants to run to the middle like Chris Christie would be forced to move the far right in these debates. The outcome would be that potential electable Republicans would have to take positions that would make them unelectable in November.
The RNC and the Republican Party are convinced that their problem is journalists who force their candidates to defend their statements and positions. Their solution is to have their debates moderated by talk radio stooges who parrot the party talking points. This is all part of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s plan to turn the Republican primary debates is heavily scripted pillow fights where absolutely nothing of substance will be discussed. The goal is to turn the debates into infomercials for the Republican Party.
The problem with the idea of having a Limbaugh or Hannity moderate a debate is that they are both very unpopular and polarizing with the country at large. A debate moderated by anyone on conservative talk radio is likely to be a circus of self-promotion for the moderator that would result in pushing more voters away from the Republican Party. The point of having a Limbaugh or Hannity moderate is to reduce potential exposure of Republican presidential candidates to serious questions. Republicans want to expand their media bubble so that it includes the primary debates. The RNC wants the debates to reflect the softball treatment that Republicans get on Fox News.
It isn’t that Republican positions and policies are misunderstood. It’s that most of the country disagrees with the party’s positions on almost every issue. Having Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity moderate a debate is an attempt to hide the problem instead of fixing it.
Reince Priebus is convinced that Mitt Romney lost in 2012 due to “media bias.” Priebus wants to remedy that by putting the biggest hacks in conservative media in charge of moderating the debates. The huge downside of this plan will occur when the Republican nominee has to participate in debates that don’t feature conservative moderators during the general election. Republicans can already barely function outside of the Fox Bubble. Sending an untested nominee into a presidential debate with someone like Hillary Clinton is courting disaster.
Republicans aren’t going to change their policies to appeal to more voters. They are going to try to win by gaming the system. Republicans around the country are making it more difficult to vote, the RNC wants to cut the number of primary debates, and they want to turn the debates that they will be holding into festivals of fluff.
Putting Limbaugh and Hannity in charge of Republican debates is a disaster waiting to happen, and I can’t wait to watch it all unfold.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association