Change the Presidential Debate Format

So far this presidential cycle we have had two “let’s raise our ratings” celebrations on national television.  One by Fox News decidedly aimed at trying to elevate another candidate to be competitive with Donald J. Trump.  The other was last night by CNN which was geared toward their corporate philosophy of limiting information in hopes of drawing people back for the conclusion.

Both of those debates failed to achieve either of the media giant’s intentions.  They also failed to give the public any substantive view of the candidate’s policy intentions.

Yes, there were some good quips lines in the real purpose of the debate, from the candidate’s perspective.  Carly tossed her presumption out that she could speak for all women with her caustic comment toward Donald Trump. “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”  Another humorous one-liner came from Scott Walker, “we don’t need an apprentice in the White House — we have one right now”.

So, then, what would make a serious debate?  First off I would like to see a debate structure that was more traditional.  Yet, I also recognize such a structure would be impractical with so many candidates.  So I offer an alternative that moves away from the grandstanding one-liners and efforts to elevate rating of the media outlet.

Step One; Only four candidates one stage at a time.

This is how they would be picked.  A panel of journalists and Party leaders from the applicable party would rate the relevance of candidate statements over a designated two-week period, close to the debate date.  They would establish specific criteria, which would NOT including polling ratings.  For example;  “In the past two weeks candidate A made this specific proposal (not something vague), and it should be addressed in the upcoming debate.”

Step two: Four comments would be presented to all the candidates.  One from each candidate’s public statements selected in step one.

Step three:  The candidate that made the statement gets four minutes to articulate the position.  The remaining three candidates get 2.5 minutes for rebuttal.  The originator then gets 1.5 minute response time.

Step four:  The rules specifically state that

  • any personal attacks will result in immediate silencing of microphones, and elimination from the remainder of the debate.
  • time limits will be strictly enforced (warning lights will of course be provided) to within ten seconds.
  • Moderator gets only two minutes to set up question, without commentary about content.

This format would push candidates that wanted to participate in the debates to formulate specific policies for the public to comprehend, before the debates occurred.

Additionally, this type of format would then allow candidates to challenge and defend policy statements “face-to-face.”

This format would tend to eliminate the showmanship of candidates and allow people to determine “winners and losers” based on actual policy positions.

That Is The Way I See It.


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