Budowsky: 2020 Dems should debate on Fox

Budowsky: 2020 Dems should debate on Fox
© Getty Images

The Democratic National Committee should reconsider and reverse its decision to prohibit Fox News from hosting a debate between Democratic candidates for president moderated by Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceBaier, Bream, Hemmer, Hume, Wallace among interim anchors to fill Shep Smith's 3 PM slot Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback MORE, Bret Baier and Bill Hemmer.

Wallace is a widely respected news anchor alongside other widely respected news anchors at NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and MSNBC, while Baier and Hemmer are highly skilled newsmen who would conduct a debate that is fair to both parties and all candidates.

ADVERTISEMENT

Fox News reaches an audience that includes many voters who would be open to supporting a Democrat for president.  Various polls suggest that of voters who supported President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE in 2016, between 8 percent and 15 percent of them had previously voted for President Obama in 2008 or 2012, or Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (I-Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic primaries.

Anyone who doubts that Democrats should agree to a presidential debate on Fox should watch the entire hour of the Sanders town hall conducted on Fox on Monday evening.  The evening was a triumph for Sanders, who won several ovations from many in the audience for his progressive positions on health care, economic fairness and eliminating the corruption of special interest money. It was also a good night for the Fox moderators, Baier and Martha MacCallum, who provided Sanders with a fair format before a diverse audience.

One major reason House Democrats won a huge landslide in the 2018 midterm elections is that Democratic candidates won in many districts that do not have recent histories of electing Democrats. They won the votes of some Fox News viewers who had previously supported GOP candidates, including Trump in 2016. These votes are critical to winning electoral votes for the Democratic presidential nominee, maintaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate in 2020.

ADVERTISEMENT

Wallace is a first-rate newsman and superb anchor who has asked tough questions of Trump associates and supporters since Trump became presidents.

After the third and final presidential debate in 2016, moderated by Wallace, a Gallup poll found that 60 percent of viewers believed that former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE had won, while only 31 percent found that GOP nominee Trump had won.

Was Wallace biased in favor of Clinton?  No — he moderated the debate with objectivity, skill and fairness that gave Clinton the opportunity to bring her message to voters so effectively that she was widely viewed as winning that debate. 

Democrats must openly seek the votes of those who supported Trump in 2016 for economic reasons, which I consider ill-advised, or because they favored an anti-establishment candidate, which is why many of these voters previously supported Obama in 2008 or Sanders in 2016, both of whom ran as anti-establishment candidates.

Because those who go fishing must fish where the fish reside, and many of these voters are viewers of Fox News, smart Democrats would welcome, not shun, a debate moderated by respected journalists on the news side of Fox with a recent history of conducting fair debates — as opposed to the preternaturally biased Fox evening opinion hosts. 

Trump is a president for the few and not the many who has conned many working-class voters into believing he represents their interests. He offers great financial windfalls to the most wealthy Americans, little financial benefit to middle-income and working-class voters, and continued poverty to the poorest among us — the case Democrats should make to Fox viewers.

This is why I was a strong supporter of Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump administration blocked consumer watchdog from public service loan forgiveness program: report Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Sherrod Brown: 'Terrible mistake' for Democratic nominee to support 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Ohio) for president. He would have offered powerful appeal to working-class and middle-income voters in contrast to Trump, as he did successfully throughout his political career in Ohio.  Sanders is right taking this case to these voters.  All Democratic candidates can do the same.  Since Fox News offers a major opportunity to do this, they should debate on Fox and all television networks. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.