A Rational Debate Format

How soon we forget.

A couple of days ago CNBC hosted a debate among the Republican herd of contenders for the presidency.  There is no question.  The moderators did a rotten job.  That will soon be forgotten.

How do I know it will soon be forgotten?  Because not that long ago Fox NEWS hosted a debate and they also did a rotten job.  Megyn Kelly was an embarrassment to the profession of journalists, commentators, pundits and jerks everywhere.  Proof of that is the night after the CNBC debate she couldn’t contain herself from further attacking and baiting others into attacking Donald Trump…in a feeble attempt to justify herself once again.

The fact is that presidential debates are a joke.  This years the “debates” are a laughing-stock of the media and the political parties combined.  One has to wonder if anyone in the media has ever seen a real debate…or, for that matter seen any real news.

The latest proposal is to have a group of right-wing talk show hosts act as moderators.  However, you should have no fear.  A prudent proposal is on the doorstep knocking for a chance to beat down the incompetence currently being demonstrated by the media and the chief apologist for the Republican Party, Reince Priebus.


  1. Stop calling them debates.  At best they are forums.
  2. Cut the number of the participants in the forums.
  3. Lose the hotshot names in media circles and go with a different crowd of moderators.
  4. Set some universal rules ans stick to them…adamently.

Forums, not debates

Debates are a technical term for a specific scholastic method of presenting arguments.  What we watch on TV are nothing like those debates.  What we observe, beyond media talking heads attempting to prove they are informed when they are not, is a forum for candidates to present their perspectives and proposed solutions.  Call the gathering what they are.

When they are called debates people naturally expect confrontation.  When they get confrontation they dislike all the candidates except the clown with the most clever lines…and him or her for only a few days.  If they don’t get confrontation they feel cheated.

The networks want confrontation for the sake of ratings.  That is the worst reason for holding the “debates/forums.”  Confrontation is great for the ratings of Survivor or The Bachelor.  But when it comes to matters that matter confrontation should be set aside in favor legitimate differences of viewpoint.  Those engaged in cheap thrills should be working in the carnival, not the media.

When the inciting word “debate,” which the events are not close to being, is changed to forum only those people seeking an accurate understanding will tune in.  They will tune in to learn, not tune in to be turned on by a “cage match,” as Ted Cruz very eloquently described the current debate stagecraft.

Since the “debates” are not debates at all let’s call them and treat them as they should be; forums for exchange and clarification of ideas.

Cut the Number of Participants

Let’s get real.  With vast numbers of candidates on the stage any real message will get lost in the rhetoric.  Beside, for the most part all Republicans are going to be saying the same message with only subtle differences in implementation (Same for the Democrats).  It is those implementation differences that voters should be hearing about.

Therefore a maximum of seven (and that is likely too many) candidates should be on stage at once.  Second tier forums are simply a waste of time for those viewers that want to start their beer drinking earlier in the evening.  Drop the prelude.

With technology as it is today on the internet we can quickly toss the FOX News bias line unto the trash heap of insanity.  Despite their whining about not being able to control public opinion, and therefore saying social media polls are invalid, there are serious alternatives.  Make them valid!  The capability exist whereby a vast majority of public opinion polls can be made valid.

Asking for a person to register their preference can be isolated via substantiated email addresses, single response URL management, etc.  Hence, the silly argument that public opinion can’t be objectively measured is…well…silly.  It can be validated with as much or better security that voting machines.

Top three candidates-people’s choice

The reason I bring that point up is that the top three candidates in a forum should be selected by the public interest in hearing from them in a forum.  An online survey encouraging and monitoring voters to rank all (YES, all) candidates would allow for an accurate selection process.  It would be as accurate, if not more so, than the fickle daily changes in statistical analysis now used.

Second three candidates-moderator’s choice

The second three, of seven candidates, would be selected by the three moderators (discussed in subsequent paragraphs).  These three candidates would be selected from among the remaining candidates.

Third level selection-if necessarily desirable

Just to keep the field modestly open the seventh candidate would be selected (people’s choice format) by the forum sponsor from among all remaining candidates.  This would ensure that at least one of the lower tiered candidates had a chance to separate into the major contender field.

Lose the Hotshots

The current format for the debates tend to highlight media types that have a popularity to maintain, as moderators.  Thus, as we have seen in recent debates the moderators that are more interested in flaunting their style and bias than those interested in drawing out legitimate information from candidates.

Therefore prudence would suggest going with less known media representatives and including persons interested in advancing the dialogue.

Each forum should be held regionally with an intent to focus on regional issues with national implication. I.e. a Forum held in the western states would focus on immigration and federal land management where the bulk of federal lands is held.  Hence, moderators should be selected from among that region.

One regional/local commentator, ranked highest by all candidates from a limited field would be one moderator.  National commentators would be automatically disqualified for the same rationale as rejecting national news hosts.

Two other moderators would be selected from candidates within the presidential contender’s party.  One of those moderators would come from the host state of the forum and the other would come from a different state.  Both would be selected by forum organizers from among knowledgeable individuals, and subsequently approved by a majority of the presidential contenders.

Universal Rules with Adamant Adherence

The reality is that the current debate formats are weakly managed.  Both moderators and candidates need to be held to a higher standard.

A. Both moderators and candidates have a set time to ask questions and deliver answers.

B. On a rotating basis moderators ask one question of two candidates.  None of the other moderators or candidates know what that one question will be.

C. Each of the remaining moderators are allowed ONE follow-up question to any candidate.  Very limited time allowance for answers.  No onstage exchange or rebuttal allowed by candidates.

D. A strict time clock is kept by a separate timekeeper.  Microphone and camera blackouts will be used for both moderators and candidates not staying within their time limits.

a.  Timekeeper will monitor time given to each candidate and advise moderators to adjust according to make the best effort to balance time among all candidates.

E. Ninety second opening and closing statements allowed by each candidate randomly selected  immediately prior to the forum.

F. Online controlled surveys of public reaction to the candidates will be monitored and the results will be announced as the official public reaction to the overall forum.

There is no doubt but that these suggestions need some finessing.  They are not intended to be finalized.  However, they are a foundation point for dialogue on making the entire presidential “debate” structure far more superior to the current three-ring circus.

That Is The Way I See It.


One thought on “A Rational Debate Format

  1. your message on debates was really good. Something needs to change but we have way too many running and you can’t have a debate/forum with that many. There just isn’t enough time although I agree about being timed which would give everyone a chance. You are right Megan Kelly started the debate with a stupid question and it has gone from there!!!

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