The Republican Party Plans to Boycott Presidential Debates

The GOP would require candidates to refuse to participate in debates sponsored by the nonpartisan commission that has run them for decades.

Donald Trump speaks during the final 2020 presidential debate. Kevin Dietsch/CNP/ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

The Republican National Committee has indicated that it will pursue a rule change requiring candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination to promise that they would refuse to take part in any general election debates sponsored by the nonpartisan, nonprofit commission that has hosted them since the 1980s, the New York Times reported Thursday. 

“The party and its voters have lost faith in your organization,” wrote RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates. She further added that the supposedly “partisan” actions of the group “have damaged the RNC’s faith that the CPD can provide a fair and impartial forum for presidential debates.”

The RNC will vote to confirm the rules change at a meeting in February. If passed, it would obligate contenders for the GOP nomination to sign a pledge not to participate in any debates sponsored by the commission.

Republicans have criticized the commission since at least 2012, when moderator Candy Crowley of CNN fact-checked Republican nominee Mitt Romney after he falsely asserted that his opponent, Barack Obama, had refrained from referring to the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror” for two weeks. Republican objections became more vocal in 2016 and 2020, when Donald Trump repeatedly criticized the commission for allegedly favoring Democrats and railed against its chosen moderators, such as then-Fox News anchor Chris Wallace and the NBC News reporter Kristen Welker, who he insisted were biased against him. 

McDaniel proposed a slate of potential reforms to the debate process and asked the commission for “transparent criteria for selecting debate moderators that would disqualify individuals from consideration who have apparent conflicts of interest due to personal, professional, or partisan factors.” However, in her letter, she alleged that the commission’s responses seemed “designed to delay any reform until it is too late to matter for the 2024 election.” 

In response to McDaniel’s accusations, the commission released a public statement saying that it has traditionally dealt directly with candidates for vice president and president, rather than with their political parties. 

“The CPD’s plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues,” the statement reads.

 It’s not clear how the change will shake up the debate stage, but it could return the planning process to the status quo before 1987, with Democratic and Republican campaigns negotiating directly to set terms—if the debates happen at all. 

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate