The Republican National Committee (RNC) voted on Thursday to withdraw from the commission responsible for organizing the presidential debates, taking a cue from former President Trump, who has repeatedly leveled accusations of anti-Republican bias against the band.
The RNC’s unanimous vote effectively bars its presidential candidates from participating in events organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has organized such debates since 1988.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said the GOP would “find new, better debate platforms to ensure future candidates don’t have to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people. ”
“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to holding free and fair debates,” she said. “The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple, common-sense reforms to help ensure fair debates, including holding debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage.”
Thursday’s vote materializes a threat that the RNC has posed to the CPD for months. In another escalating step, the RNC warned the commission last month against fundraising for the idea that the next GOP nominee will appear in the 2024 debates.
The CPD was founded in 1987 with the sponsorship of the two main political parties. And while Democrats and Republicans have complained occasionally over the years about the commission’s handling of debates, antipathy toward the group has grown among Republicans in recent years amid Trump’s criticism of of the committee.
If Trump mounts another bid for the White House in 2024 and secures the GOP nomination, the RNC rule change virtually guarantees that he will not participate in the traditional debate schedule.
Of course, if Republicans tap someone else for the nomination, the party could always change its rules again, and the eventual nominee will likely have the final say on whether or not to participate.