By now, you’ve probably heard a good bit about the "unbiased" Republican (??) questioners at last night’s debate. Interestingly, this WaPo piece on the questioners doesn’t get any of that, while this NYT piece gets only a little of it.
There are a couple of issues that come up here. One has to do with the competence and/or impartiality of CNN and Youtube as organizers of an event like this. Seems like Republicans were right to be leery of this format. And I think that both organizations deserve even more egg on their face than this.
A second issue is whether non-Republicans have any business posing questions to Republicans during the nomination process. If the forum is open, why not? But, of course, this wasn’t an open forum. I’m tempted to argue that part of the problem is the manner in which the "parties" choose "their" nominees. In too many primaries, like the one in my home state, all a voter has to do is ask for a particular party’s ballot on election day. And even being required to declare your party allegiance when registering isn’t much of a hurdle. The result that just about anybody can have a modicum of influence over a "party’s" choice, even if that person has no real interest in or loyalty to the party. (In that respect, last night’s debate is just an instance of the permeability and openness of the nomination process as a whole.)
What’s more that permability and openness don’t stop in the voting booth. People with money and their own agendas, like George Soros, have a pretty powerful incentive to drive folks in a certain direction. And even candidates will try to figure out how to mobilize "their voters," rather than those who are most predictable in their November voting behavior.
I know that there are some virtues in this (e.g., evidence of an ability to reach beyond the so-called base), and I can’t imagine a way of building a disciplined party structure in this day and age, but can’t we agree that the "democratization" of the nominating process isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be? I don’t really want to being back the proverbial smoke-filled rooms (Mike Huckabee would be aghast!), but I wish there were ways to empower parties to regain the control of their labels that they’ve ceded since the 1960s.