This news is a few days old, but it continues to develop as the decision by the Democratic National Committee to pull out of talks with the Fox News Channel about the right-leaning network hosting a 2020 Democratic Primary Debate is still being discussed.
There are obvious reasons why the DNC would make such a choice, given the weekly primetime lineup at Fox is now exclusively pro-Trump and anti-Democrat, but is the decision wise considering the circumstances of how Hillary lost middle America in 2016 and Democrats desperately need to reach those voters in 2020 to turn things around?
Some Democrats would like the DNC to reconsider.
First, a report from CNN where Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut, says the DNC decision to cut Fox News out of the loop was the wrong move:
“Well, with all due respect to the (Democratic National Committee), no, I don’t think it was the right decision,” Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes said to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”
“You know, look, it’s no surprise to anybody, including Fox News watchers, that Fox is largely an instrument of the right wing — of the Republican Party. It’s a propaganda arm for the White House,” Himes said, adding that he makes appearances on the network because he believes if you put Democratic ideas “against whatever the nonsense is on the other side,” Democrats “will have the appealing ideas.”
The first debate of the Democratic primary season will take place in June with NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, while the second will air in July on CNN.
Himes told Camerota that “a debate is a very highly structured moment.”
“It is, in some senses, fair. It’s not like, you know, (Fox News host) Sean Hannity can jump in and challenge Bernie Sanders,” he said.
“As they say, ‘You don’t need to persuade your friends, you need to persuade people who disagree with you.’ So I would’ve made a different decision,” Himes said.
Himes’ argument basically boils down to the assertion that if these Democratic candidates, and Democrats in general, don’t push their message in every venue, at every opportunity, they are leaving votes on the table and leaving opposing ideas unchallenged. As Himes also noted, the theoretical Fox News Democratic Primary Debate would not be moderated by opinion hosts like Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson, it would be moderated by hosts from the news division with personalities like Chris Wallace and Martha McCallum.
Ed Rendell, former Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, and former head of the DNC, also voiced his displeasure with the decision:
“If we could pick the commentators and moderators, I think we should have the debate on Fox, because let me tell you — even if we can persuade 3 percent of Fox viewers, 3 percent last time out, carries Michigan,” Rendell said during an appearance on the cable network Thursday night, referencing one of the rust-belt states that President Trump narrowly carried en route to his 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Hillary’s loss to Donald Trump was extremely close in 2016, especially in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Rendell’s arguing that by ignoring Fox, the DNC is basically ignoring a lot of voters that might be open to voting against Trump in 2020 if they’re presented a viable alternative. When elections are decided by a few thousand votes, it seems that Rendell has a valid point.
Why did the DNC decide to deny Fox a debate? According to the current DNC Chairman, Tom Perez, the issue is concerning Fox’s ability to be impartial with Democratic candidates, and inability to objectively report on Donald Trump:
In a statement Wednesday, the current DNC chairman, Tom Perez, cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted Trump’s agenda in justifying the party’s decision. The article, titled “The Making of the Fox News White House,” suggested that the news network had become a “propaganda” vehicle for Trump.
“Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” Perez said.
Playing the “imagine if” game is often pointless, but what if the shoe was on the other foot in 2016? Imagine if the RNC decided that Republican primary debates would only take place on … Fox News? The rest of the media would have cried foul, of course, but the greater issue is that the GOP message wouldn’t have reached crucial voting blocs around the country. In fact, if the RNC had made such a move to exclude other networks, would Donald Trump ever have been President if not for his string of must-watch GOP primary debate appearances on networks like CNN, and others?
Banning networks is rare, but it does happen. The RNC banned NBC from hosting future GOP Primary Debates in the 2016 cycle after a terrible CNBC debate, but it was based on the quality of the debate itself. A debate which, to this day, was scrubbed by CNBC from its website and YouTube channel due to the behavior of the debate moderators which was arguably biased against the candidates.
Back to the DNC decision against Fox.
Fox News’ own Juan Williams, an ardent Democrat and long-time Fox host, was also angered at his party’s decision:
Fox News political analyst Juan Williams on Sunday criticized the DNC’s snub of the network — which came in a statement citing critical reporting from The New Yorker — and balked at the claims that the network’s reporters and personalities have to toe the line of the Trump administration.
“I’m a Democrat and I’ve worked at Fox for 23 years,” Williams said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “Nobody tells me what to say here.”
He added: “I think it’s very important that Democrats penetrate the bubble, if you will, on the right and speak truth as well as it can be spoken.”
Denying Fox News the right to hold a 2020 Democratic Primary Debate is all about placating the Democratic Party base. To give Fox an opportunity would be, in their eyes, to legitimize an illegitimate news operation. Chairman Perez knows he has to walk a fine line, and though initially, it seemed that the chances were high that Fox would snag one debate, talks quickly devolved.
If you want a case study in voicing your message at every opportunity, look at Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic candidate for President. Yang has taken every media opportunity he’s been given, appearing on every network imaginable to tout his universal basic income plan, including Fox News and the Fox Business Network.
We did it!!!! THANK YOU everyone who supported us to make it happen!!! ???? First stop debates next stop White House!!! pic.twitter.com/i5XXkotffH
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) March 12, 2019
If the DNC wants to succeed in winning the White House in 2020, follow the lead of Yang, and others, who want to spread their message far and wide, regardless of media bias or partisan divides.