Recent threats by the Republican National Committee to boycott CNN and NBC sponsored primary debates if the networks go ahead with planned movies on Hillary Clinton is raising great deal of media interest. Aside from making me suddenly interested in both programs what is the RNC really trying to do here?
First, this is not about stopping the production of either NBC’s miniseries or CNN’s documentary about the former-First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State. I would be stunned if either network capitulated to the GOP’s demands. As I mentioned above the controversy only helps to draw ratings.
So what is really behind all of this?
To start off with it’s a great way to rally the base. Conservative activists are convinced the media are all out to get them so pushing back against these outlets makes it look like the GOP is finally standing up to the media after taking years of abuse. Guesting hosting for Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingraham said it was about time and Rush Limbaugh argued it didn’t go far enough:
Right now the RNC needs to do all the base rallying it can considering the internal divisions over immigration and defunding Obamacare. Here’s a little example of what I mean:
Also, if this goes through and CNN or NBC don’t have GOP primary debates it gives Priebus an easy excuse for having fewer debates in 2016. There are many in the GOP who blame the 20 debates held during the primary (especially the ten held between September 7 and December 15, 2011) for weakening the eventual nominee. Priebus himself said 2012 had a ridiculous number of debates.
So if there are fewer outlets and sponsors there will be fewer debates and the RNC can blame the biased media for limiting the number of debates, not anything intentional on their parts.
Is the RNC reading Bob Knight’s playbook?
Maybe most importantly it is a way of working the refs. Like a college basketball coach who bitches at the refs all game long and then gets a favorable call in the clutch, the RNC is trying to wear down resistance.
Why does this work in college basketball and other sports? Well a referee gets complained at all game that their being biased against the team and either they just get tired of hearing it or the complaining starts to get in their head the worry that they actually are biased and need to make sure they are not acting that way. So in reaction they start going a little easier on the complaining coaches team.
If you’re the RNC and you complain how liberal CNN and NBC are being then maybe the questions your candidates get asked aren’t as hard or the formats are more friendly. Why? Because NBC and CNN don’t want to be seen as biased so if they do end up hosting a debate you might see them overcompensate by being too easy on the GOP candidates (i.e. not asking follow up questions).
Of course the fact that conservatives will complain about my saying that shows how good they are at working the refs.
Either way it seems the RNC figures it can rally its base and scare the networks. If that works it will be a big win for them.