Marginal candidates with minimal financial resources, for whom debates are the oxygen of free publicity, will resist any restrictions. Suppose they accept invitations to unauthorized debates. Will more plausible candidates be tempted to join them? Not if any candidate who participates in unauthorized debates is, before the convention begins, denied a substantial portion of whatever delegates he or she has won.
Priebus, who must placate fractious party factions, won admiration across the party spectrum when he said that if NBC and CNN proceeded with their proposed election-year miniseries and documentary, respectively, about Hillary Clinton, neither organization would be allowed to sponsor an authorized debate. By this he earned some deference for his changes.
Madison crafted our constitutional architecture of incentives — principally, the separation of powers — to encourage self-interested people to be moderate and compromising. Priebus' Madisonian revisions of the incentive structure of the nominating process could protect the party, and presidential candidates, from its current penchant for self-destructive behavior.
George Will's email address is email@example.com.
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