RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote a letter last week to pull out of a Feb. 26 debate with NBC, following the disastrous showing by CNBC trying to be network known for more than just “Shark Tank” reruns.
“The RNC’s sole role in the primary debate process is to ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay out their vision for America’s future,” Priebus said in the letter. “We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns.”
Monday, Glenn Beck, radio talk show host and founder and CEO of TheBlaze, wrote a letter to the RNC suggesting that he and his network should host the debate instead. A hashtag, #BlazeDebate, then began circulating among conservatives eager for a debate not held hostage by DNC-manufactured, cable-news talking points.
There are two immediate questions coming from the debate turn of events: 1. Why are people writing so many letters in 2015? 2. What will the RNC think of potentially having a debate hosted by TheBlaze?
The answer to the second question is just as unknown right now as the first, but the RNC absolutely should consider having a debate on TheBlaze, and reforming the style, substance and delivery of debates in the future.
The obvious argument is that it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there is no purpose in having establishment media reporters – who would never vote in a Republican primary – dictate the conversation between Republican presidential candidates. When CNBC anchor Becky Quick told Sen. Rand Paul in the last debate that which candidates get to follow-up would be at the “moderator’s discretion” it became as clear as ever that there was something wrong with letting people playing journalist on TV manipulate the GOP primary.
But in addition to the common sense reform of having conservative moderators question Republican candidates, having a debate on TheBlaze has another intrinsic value. The sensationalist primary debates – which seek sound bites over substance and infighting over solutions – can be greatly reformed from their current format if the GOP makes a bold move.
TheBlaze’s integrated digital model, regardless of ideology, is more innovative and dynamic than anything the mainstream media is offering. If the RNC does indeed approve a debate that would be streamed by millions of viewers free online, it would not only be circumventing lazy, sensationalist journalists, but it would be circumventing a cable news system biased in favor of soundbites, spin and the corporate interests that fund it.
While Republicans lag behind Democrats in digital operation, messaging and winning presidential elections in the last seven years, there is an opening to improve in all three.
Beck said TheBlaze debate would offer every candidate the chance to answer the same question, feature a post-broadcast Q&A and would be available for Spanish-speaking audiences.
“Between the two-hour free broadcast and a post-broadcast Q&A, every candidate will have the same opportunity to answer every question, so that fairness and equal voice is offered to each of them,” Beck said in his letter. “And the live broadcast plus post-show Q&As will be available for the foreseeable future as on-demand video content with full transcripts, available to all.”
“By doing so, our body of questions and responses will become a digital library of conservative thought to guide voters as they make critical choices in the months ahead.”
Republicans have forever distrusted and even disliked the media. Instead of constantly complaining about the mainstream media’s behavior, and playing within the rules it sets up, why not change the game altogether?
The RNC should try to be one step ahead of traditional media and go digital for its ninth and final debate this winter. If Reince needs this message in letter form, I can rework it.