Republicans are bowing out of presidential debates. Good.

Good riddance to the awkward group interview we call 'debate'

George H.W. Bush.
(Image credit: Illustrated | AP Images, iStock)

It's official. After previewing the move for months, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has announced an official boycott of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has administered the quadrennial events since 1988. The RNC isn't completely rejecting debates, which RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel described as "an important part of the democratic process" in her statement. But it's not clear whether the CPD is willing to meet Republicans' demands for reform or Democrats are willing to bypass the commission, leaving the future of the exercise in doubt.

That's no great loss. Although they've become centerpieces of the campaign, presidential debates are a fairly recent innovation. The first series wasn't arranged until 1960. Due to the perceived risks of the exercise, demonstrated by Richard Nixon's uneasy performance in his opening encounter with John F. Kennedy, no more debates were held until 1976.

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Samuel Goldman

Samuel Goldman is a national correspondent at He is also an associate professor of political science at George Washington University, where he is executive director of the John L. Loeb, Jr. Institute for Religious Freedom and director of the Politics & Values Program. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard and was a postdoctoral fellow in Religion, Ethics, & Politics at Princeton University. His books include God's Country: Christian Zionism in America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) and After Nationalism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). In addition to academic research, Goldman's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.