Yet the original design of the party-controlled general-election debate has slowly morphed from Republican Party-Democratic Party negotiation into something wholly different: a free-standing group of self-anointed, self-important Beltway Brahmins. Slowly but surely, the organization added staff, raised funds, expanded its “mission” and deepened its own sense of entitlement.
What had been a legitimate arrangement whereby the two parties would, every four years, meet and confer, negotiate and deliberate, and decide on the number and design of debates became something wholly else: a bastion of Beltway privilege, with a little New York representation and media preening tossed in. The table servants became table setters. This week they made their big move. Without consulting President Trump or former vice president Joe Biden, the commission simply declared it was changing the rules for this year’s second general-election presidential debate: The “Townhall Debate” would be “virtual.”
I’ve inveighed against the commission before, because it is obviously biased to the left, so patently “of, in, by and for” the Beltway, as have been many of its moderators. This is indeed the case with most D.C.-based “institutions,” whether it’s PBS or the Smithsonian. Give any organization a “national mission” but base it inside the Beltway, and it will serve the Beltway.