Surprise: Bernie Sanders to hold town hall event -- on Fox News

On, of all days, April 15th. Tax Day!

I wonder if that was by Bernie’s request or by Fox’s.

Either way, this is a shrewd move for both sides. Only Nixon could go to China, only the socialist in the race can sit down with Trump TV.

The network said the town hall will take place on April 15 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and will be co-moderated by “Special Report” anchor Bret Baier and “The Story” anchor Martha MacCallum. It will focus on the economy and jobs.

Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, participated in a town hall event on Fox News during the 2016 presidential election cycle…

Sanders’s 2016 town hall on FOX News did well from a ratings perspective, averaging 2.6 million total viewers and nearly 500,000 in the key 25-54 demographic.

What’s in it for Bernie? Well, beyond the free exposure, it’s a chance to polish his image as a fearless advocate for the rightness of his cause in a hostile environment and as an independent beholden to no party machine. It was just last month that the DNC pledged not to hold any Democratic primary debates on Fox News, de facto punishment for the network’s hand-in-glove relationship with Trump. Sanders owes the DNC less than nothing after 2016, though, so here he is going his own way. In a way, it’s an opportunity for Bernie to show off his supreme left-wing cred too. Any other candidate in the race who chose to break the DNC embargo and do an event with Fox would have been attacked by the left as a sellout. Because he’s the pope of progressivism, he’ll get a pass.

There’s campaign strategy here too. Remember that Democrats are in the middle of an argument over whether to try to claw back working-class white voters from Trump’s winning 2016 coalition next year or to effectively cede those voters to him and try to outvote them with an even bigger Obama-esque coalition of women, minorities, young adults, and liberals. The eventual nominee will try to do some of both, of course, but each candidate will have an easier time with one of those tasks than with the other based on his/her own bio, retail skills, and so forth. Bernie is arguably the strongest exemplar of the first approach, the guy who struggles to galvanize nonwhite voters but cleans up with blue-collar whites who are receptive to economic populism. On which of the three cable news networks are you most likely to encounter an audience in which populist working-class whites are overrepresented? That’d be Fox, of course, and so that’s where Bernie’s headed. You can’t go much deeper into the heart of Trump country than a town hall held in a Pennsylvania steel town and aired on Trump’s favorite network.

What’s in it for Fox, meanwhile? Obviously it’s an opportunity to show that they can be fair in a campaign format even to the left-most candidates on the Democratic side. Not that that was really in doubt: The DNC pulled the plug on debates on Fox News not because they feared Chris Wallace or Bret Baier sandbagging the candidates with gotcha questions but because they wanted to penalize the network for being an arm of Trump’s reelection campaign, at least in primetime. If the Sanders town hall goes well, the DNC might rethink its decision on denying Fox any debates. (Certainly there’ll be less left-wing outage if they reverse themselves now than there would have been had Bernie not first decided to grace FNC with his presence.) And Bernie’s willingness to blaze this trail might mean that other Democratic candidates will find it safe to follow his lead, particularly the lesser-known ones who desperately need the audience. If Sanders has the guts to go on Fox, Beto and Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar will feel pressure to show that they do too. In fact, Baier tweeted earlier that other town halls are already in the works.

Basically everyone’s happy with this decision. Well, almost everyone.

Millhiser works for Think Progress. Imagine working at an outfit like that or at Media Matters, wholly invested in the idea that Fox News is a propaganda network that should be delegitimized at every turn, only to find the hero of democratic socialism signing on for a campaign event with them today.

Via Newsbusters, here’s a stirring warning to Democrats not to nominate a radical leftist next summer from Fox News. Er, I mean … MSNBC.