Rachel Maddow Belatedly Notices Democrats Don't Want Anyone to See Their Debates

Several months after it became obvious to anyone paying attention, Rachel Maddow has seized upon a key element in the Democrats' campaign for president this time around.

The Oxford-educated Maddow, long touted mainly through self-branding as MSNBC's resident brainiac, opened her show Friday night by pointing out the contrast between an abundance of GOP debates and the downright paucity of those involving Democrats.

First she mentioned Thursday's Republican debate drawing fewer viewers than its predecessors -- 11 million compared to 24 million in the first debate. Then Maddow pointed out that Democrats have drawn far fewer people to watch their debates, with 16 million tuning in for the first one and only 7 million for the most recent.

More noteworthy, Maddow said, was the difference in the number of debates held by each party -

... Even with the Republican numbers dropping, the Republicans are still sitting pretty in terms of the size of the audiences they're reaching. The Democrats, of course, this year have decided to hide their light under a bushel. So, the Republicans have done six debates so far. The Republicans have only done three.

How's that for a twofer -- Maddow imbuing Democrats with a celestial glow courtesy of that biblical allusion, then making a dopey error in referring to Republicans as having "only done three" debates when she presumably meant Democrats --

The last two Democratic debates with viewership down there in the 8-million range, those were both held on weekend evenings, not a great time to get big audiences. (The second debate, on Dec. 19, was scheduled for the Saturday night before Christmas). That scheduling plan is also true of the next Democratic debate which will be this weekend on NBC, 9 o'clock on the Sunday of a three-day weekend. It's kind of amazing -- the Democratic Party has done everything it can to ensure the smallest possible audiences for their candidates' debates this year.

But in terms of this next one, the race right now is so tight and it's so increasingly snippy between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, I don't think anybody really knows what kind of numbers they're going to get on Sunday night. Sunday night of a holiday weekend is a weird time to do it, but with what's going on in the race right now and the anticipation about Iowa and New Hampshire, might be a bigger crowd than the Democrats are expecting. So that'll be one really interesting thing to see about Sunday.

Here's the truly amazing thing though about the Democrats' debate schedule. This Sunday night debate for the Democrats -- this is it. They're not holding any more Democratic debates before Iowa or before New Hampshire. I mean, contrast that with the Republicans last night, that was there sixth debate. They've still got another one scheduled before Iowa and then they've still got another one scheduled after that between Iowa and New Hampshire. But for the Democrats, no! (chortles). It's just this Sunday night of MLK Day weekend and that's it until mid-February. It's just, just amazing.

Amazing to some, appalling to others. It's as if the Republican Party has decided to put its light on a stand, for all that enter may see, to borrow an allusion.

Maddow suggests it's the "Democratic Party" that has orchestrated this non-transparent state of affairs. Gee, Rach, could you be more specific? Do you mean the Democratic Party of Martin O'Malley, the candidate given to complaining about not getting enough time in debates? Or is it the Democratic Party of Bernie Sanders, Bolshevik of Vermont, who's also prone to the same line of complaint? How about the Democratic Party of Lincoln Chaffee, Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig, the blink-and-miss-'em candidates who dropped out for lack of time on debate stages?

This is, after all, a party comprised of people who pride themselves in the comforting yet problematic belief that they can talk themselves out of anything, as best epitomized by party exemplar Bill Clinton. The notion that Democrats would want fewer debates than Republicans, and at times when only a scattering of people would be watching, goes against the essence of what it means to be a Dem.

All of which begs the question -- why would the "Democratic Party" do such a thing? And here's where Maddow acts wholly out of character. She not only fails to ask why this is so, she doesn't even speculate -- not that she's averse. Later in Friday night's show, for example, while talking about Thursday's GOP debate, she mentioned a New Jersey newspaper pouncing on Gov. Chris Christie's claim that he "never wrote a check to Planned Parenthood."

Not so, according to the Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey, which unearthed a story from 1994 in which Christie says, "I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution ..."

Cue speculation from Maddow -- "His personal contribution could have been not in the form of a check. He could have brought them a bucket full of nickels or something. Maybe it was cash. Maybe he gave them a gold Krugerrand. I don't know. Maybe it wasn't a check and that's what he means even though he was previously directly quoted saying he gave them a personal contribution!"

There's the Maddow we know and disdain, fearless in her fervor to speculate! 

Alas, it would run the risk of accuracy for Maddow to describe the (cough, clear throat) Clinton wing of the Democratic Party as doing everything it can to "ensure the smallest audiences possible" for the debates. After all, if then-Senator Barack Obama had half the debate time in 2007-08 than he actually did, we might be watching him run again at the merciful end of the second scandal-plagued Clinton administration.

As timing would have it, Maddow was given a golden opportunity to ask another party exemplar, Hillary Clinton, as to why the (cough, clear throat) Democratic Party is holding so few debates. A chance to lift that bushel and gaze upon the light, as it were. Clinton was a guest on Maddow's show ... the night before Maddow laughingly bemoaned the dearth of debates among Dems. And yet Maddow somehow neglected to ask Madame Secretary the very question that would have made the quiz in Journalism 101.

Much though MSNBC strenuously tries to brand her as a "news anchor" and Maddow lets drops frequent references to the hilarity bandied about her "newsroom," neither description is apropos if Maddow can't bring herself to inquire of the empress, in her regal presence, why she is shorn of apparel and all the children are pointing at her.  

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts