New Orleans What are we up to now, more than two dozen candidates in the Democratic sweepstakes for president, right? What does it take to win the general election? I know Donald Trump doesn’t believe this, but really, I’m pretty sure a candidate has to face all of the voters and hope they go with you, even if that didn’t work out for Hillary Clinton or Al Gore. Yes, I know the Electoral College sucks, but the odds still favor you overwhelmingly if you win a majority of all of the voters.
This may seem a strange way to introduce the subject of Fox News, the deservedly maligned hater network, Trump drumbeater, and scourge of all things progressive. I’m not trying to reopen the question of whether or not they should host one of the candidate debates in 2020. The Democratic Party and its chair, Tom Perez, were correct not to reward Fox News and its team the ability to moderate one of the debates. The Trump debacle with Megan Kelly and all of the drama last time should have been enough, but their daily fare of vitriol is also more than a plenty. Fox News doesn’t know the meaning of the word “moderate,” and they think calling someone a moderate is a high-dungeon, slap down cussword.
Nonetheless for a candidate to refuse to do a townhall with their viewers seems crazy to me. I’m biased, having been interviewed twice by Fox folks during their attack on ACORN. I’ve often told the story to hundreds of organizers that one of the lessons I learned indelibly as a 20-years old as head organizer of Massachusetts Welfare Rights Organization was that you need to be available to those who disagree with you, even violently, just as you are to those who agree with you, even enthusiastically. If you want to change minds, you have to be willing to soak up the anger and handle the hard questions. In the American political culture, there is respect to be gained by taking the field, even in a fight against long odds, but there is none gained in hiding or running from trouble.
How are candidates going to sway voters, if they do not take the opportunity to make their case?
Bernie Sanders did a town hall on Fox, and there were 2.5 million viewers. Two million may have hated his guts, but they listened, and maybe he moved a half-million. That was worth an hour of his time. Same for Senator Amy Klobuchar for 1.6 million and Mayor Pete Buttigieg with1.1 million viewers. You don’t have to get every vote. Just most of them. Elizabeth Warren has said she’s not going because the Fox business model is hating. Kamala Harris has also said no. Believe me, others will say, yes, and they should say, yes. This is an opportunity. It makes it harder to demonize them as targets. Furthermore, the policies advocated by Democrats appeal directly to the Fox demographic. You don’t always get to pick the ground, so fight them where you can.
Here’s a last great reason for all the two dozen to line up for a Fox town hall: it’s driving Trump crazy! He was madman tweeting that Fox should deny the Democrats access. He had to be reminded by one of his Fox boys that “covering candidates from both parties is part of the job of a news channel.” He was also called out for being too chicken to be interviewed by Chris Wallace.
Face the tigers in the den, and you win. Anyone who wants to be president needs to learn that quickly.