After the third Republican presidential debate—during which CNBC moderators sandbagged candidates with unfair gotcha questions like, “How exactly would your plan work?”—conservatives were outraged, the RNC cut ties with NBC, and the party insisted that future debate moderators treat their candidates more gently.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that many Republican candidates subsequently felt no compunction at all about engaging in outright anti-Muslim incitement after the terrorist attacks in Paris ten days ago.
And thanks to the wagon-circling that ensued after the last debate, it’s really hard to imagine any future moderators probing the fact that the party’s front-runner is—and I can’t believe I’m writing this—proposing outright fascism and promoting neo-Nazi propaganda on social media.
Plenty of commentators have described the Republican primary as chickens coming home to roost. But those chickens were nested in precisely the kind of insular defensiveness and outlandishness that gave rise to Donald Trump in the first place. Even a small bow to the pressures of reality, by way of a debate moderator, could help.