Both CNN and ABC News have now canceled the only two Republican debates that were set for the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary. CNN’s debate was scheduled for this Sunday, while ABC News’ was set for this Thursday. Both media companies say it’s due to a lack of participation. On Tuesday, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said she won’t do any more debates until former President Donald Trump participates and Trump has skipped every debate so far throughout the campaign.

Peter Loge is the director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Loge has nearly 30 years of experience in politics and communications, including a presidential appointment at the Food and Drug Administration and senior positions for Sen. Edward Kennedy and three members of the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently leads the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at the School of Media and Public Affairs and continues to advise advocates and organizations.

Loge says the demise of debates is an example of incentives bumping into ethics.

“Typically, candidates who are leading in the polls try to avoid debating because they don't want to risk losing the support they've got, while candidates who are trailing want to debate to try and peel support from other candidates. That debates may be good for the democratic process is coincidental,” Loge says. “If there is no political upside to debating, why would a candidate debate? Trump is going to Trump, and that means he won't debate. Haley is the clear non-Trump candidate in New Hampshire, why would she give a mic to a guy she would rather leave stuck in snow drift in Iowa?”

Loge adds that there may be ethical reasons to debate – it’s good for democracy to both engage in robust debate about the issues so voters can make informed choices, and it’s good to model good democratic behavior by having serious policy discussions. But, Loge says political campaigns aren't about promoting idealized democratic norms; campaigns are about winning.

“Candidates need political incentives to behave ethically. As long as President Trump and Ambassador Haley have incentives to duck debates, they will duck debates, regardless of the consequences for democratic discourse. Until the politically smart and ethically appropriate actions are, or at least approximate, the same thing, politics will beat ethics almost every time.”