The 2020 presidential election, which is more than 600 days away, is already on the minds of many Americans.
Let’s be honest: many have been hoping for time to pass by faster than usual since November 2016, especially Democratic-leaning voters (and most independents), who stand steadfastly opposed to President Donald Trump’s policies and behavior while in office.
Many Democratic presidential hopefuls have already jumped into the race, with others still considering doing so. Thus far, more than a dozen individuals have announced their intentions to run for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Some pretty big names (like former Vice President Joe Biden) are expected to make announcements as well.
With this many candidates throwing their hats in the ring, the Democratic National Committee obviously has some planning to do. It has implemented special rules, for example, on who can take part in the party’s sanctioned debates — including consideration of grassroots fundraising numbers, polling thresholds, and other stipulations meant to keep the number of people onstage during its debates to a smaller, more manageable number.
Recently, the DNC made another decision about its debates, this time involving a venue decision rather than one about candidates. The party decided that it would not allow Fox News to host any debate for the Democratic candidates to debate within.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez explained that an article published in the New Yorker earlier this month, which detailed how Fox’s relationship with the Trump administration has been much-too-cozy (and at times downright unethical) over the past few years, was the last straw for the party.
Fox News simply “is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” Perez explained, according to reporting from the New York Times, adding that the relationship between the network and Trump was “inappropriate.”
Perez isn’t wrong: between allegedly feeding debate questions to Trump in the Republican primary campaign, to essentially being a mouthpiece for peddling his false narratives, Fox has demonstrated its clear bias in favor of the current occupant of the White House. There’s simply no sane reason why Democratic candidates should have to field questions from a panel of Fox News personalities, whose colleagues regularly berate and demean Democratic Party personalities night-after-night through manipulation of facts and outright lies.
There are obviously upsides and downsides to denying the network a chance to take part in the Democratic Party’s debates. One of the major downsides is the fact that it makes them look scared of the network — and thus, scared of conservative scrutiny. If Dems aren’t willing to speak on a network that challenges their opinions, how can they be expected to run the most important government office in the world?
Criticisms from the right will undoubtedly result from this move. Trump himself has already chimed in on Twitter, suggesting that he may copy the DNC’s actions but with other news networks he finds disfavorable to him.
“I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!” Trump tweeted out on March 6.
Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2019
It does indeed look silly for Democrats to skip the debate on Fox News, but it’s important to note it was a choice the party made, not the candidates. It does come at the expense of lending Trump some political capital, especially among those he calls his base, who will eat up any criticisms Trump decides to level at the Dems.
But political capital is created for Democrats by skipping the debates on Fox, too. Voters who tend to support Democrats will see the move as a proper one to make, a responsible choice for the party to have followed through on in order to promote legitimate journalism in the age of Trump.
However, another negative outcome of skipping the debate with Fox is that it doesn’t give Democrats an opportunity to convert sensible Fox News viewers. “Winning over loyal Fox viewers wouldn’t have been easy, but simply making the overture might help with those swing voters who are exhausted by partisanship,” senior writer for Slate Josh Voorhees pointed out in a recent opinion piece he penned.
Still, it’s probably a net win for Democrats overall to say “no thanks” to Fox hosting one of its 12 primary season debates. And it’s not unprecedented: as Voorhees also noted, the DNC dropped a debate on the network after its then-CEO Roger Ailes made a distasteful comment linking 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama’s name to Osama bin Laden. Stepping aside from that debate didn’t seem to do too much damage for the party’s eventual candidate, who went on to serve two terms in the White House afterward.
Democrats need to do what’s best for their eventual candidate, who they hope will successfully defeat Trump in the 2020 general election (although some doubt he’ll be in office still, or that he’ll even run for a second term). Perez and others in the party have rightly recognized that appearing on Fox News, a network that has primetime hosts emulating fictional Oceania’s “two-minutes hate” from the imagination of George Orwell on a nightly basis, isn’t going to help them achieve that end.
It may end up being that the move won’t help Democrats in any big way. But not including Fox News in its debate schedule won’t hurt them too badly, either, if history is any indicator.
Featured image credit: Brian Allen, Voice of America/Wikimedia