August 16, 2013
Mitt Romney and Rick Perry debate in 2012 (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)
Mitt Romney and Rick Perry debate in 2012 (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

In a move so stupid it must be brilliant, the Republican National Committee (RNC) carried through on its threat and voted to have its candidates boycott any debates CNN and NBC might schedule for the 2016 presidential primaries. The reason, of course, is the networks’ plan to air shows on presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Some less-partisan commentators already challenged these networks’ judgment, arguing that these shows would constitute pro-Clinton bias. Democrats responded that the RNC is hypocritical, pointing out that Fox News is still welcome, despite NBC’s mini-series being produced by another division of Fox. Both sides miss the more interesting story: Why, when Republicans supposedly are desperate to expand their base, would they eliminate potential viewers? Two possible reasons: First, core members of the Republican Party still live in a bubble of hate for the “mainstream media” and want to fire up their base by showing they won’t be pushed around. The second possible answer is that the RNC knows that limiting exposure to Republican primary debates is absolutely critical to preserving its nominee’s chances of victory in November.

Remember the spectacle of Republican primary candidates in 2012 competing to win the narrowest sliver of ideological ground and taking their front-runner down with them? The first possible explanation for the boycott is so stupid that I am left believing it must be the second.