I recently read an editorial by Stephen Carter of Bloomberg View in the Star Ledger offering a radical suggestion for improving the debates that “are neither debates nor presidential.” The candidates say nothing of substance and amount to nothing more than “nonsense,” both in rhetoric and nonsensical behavior (one guess as to whom takes the top prize).
Carter‘s radical suggestion is to take the “debate” out of the debates. Give each candidate the questions in advance (perhaps 48 hours) and not allow follow-up questions except by consent of the candidate. Give each candidate a total of 45 minutes for all responses and let them decide how much time to spend on each.
Three things could possibly happen:
- In reality, presidents don’t craft responses on the spot. They consult staff and outside experts. Allowing them to do the same for a debate would reveal the quality of the people around them (aides who make or break a president).
- Reduce “glib” responses that reward the “smooth” candidate rather than the one who is right. The ideal candidate should be thoughtful and reflective, resisting entirely the tendency to shoot from the hip. Lack of time for persuasion makes candidates state a position, but not offer serious justification for it, reducing the electoral process to slogans and applause lines resulting in candidate’s appealing to emotion alone and creating voters who go with their “gut” and not their brains.
- We would see what a candidates priorities are. By having them choose how much time to spend on each question we would know what issues they consider important. How they allocate their time might tell us more than their answers. We could than compare the amount of time each candidate spends on a given question.
If the candidates and media won’t take control of this mockery, than the public must take to social media and demand an end to this reality show “entertainment” and demand a return to the proper decorum of the electoral process. What is happening is an embarrassment to a country considered to be a leader of nations. I like Mr. Carter’s suggestion. BUT IS ANYONE LISTENING?
What do you think?
Paraphrasing and quotes from: Sunday, Star-Ledger, January 17, 2016, Perspective: Revise debate to get real answers; Stephan L. Carter/Bloomberg View