Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Modernize the Debate Format

The first debate between presidential candidates in the modern era were the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Before those, and before TV, there was little demand for any type of debates between the presidential candidates.

The Lincoln-Douglas Senatorial debates of 1858 were actually the first nationally watched debates [ in the newspapers, at least]---mostly because of the hot button issue of the day of slavery. Those guys debated for hours at a time, with people watching, listening, and asking all the questions. "Mr. Lincoln, if you win the election, will you finally take off that big hat?"

No moderator. No lights. No sound bites or quips.

And those debates set up the national rematch just two years later when the candidates met again when running for President. NJ gave 4 Electoral votes to Abe and 3 to candidate Douglas, split the state north and south. Wow, even back then the south and the north had their differences!

And so with the high standards set for debating by Lincoln-Douglas and Kennedy-Nixon, we entered the debate negotiations this year. Choices: A standard debate with podiums and lights. Town hall format with candidates on high chairs, and answering questions of audience members. The candidates seated at a table, talking to each other and the moderator. All boring, with a capital B.

Suggested debate better formats:

Cage match, 'Thunderdome' style: Two candidates in, one candidate out. Both candidates get to swing from those elastic thingies, like in the Mel Gibson movie.

Play "Jeopardy" format: All answers must in the form of a question. For example "This is a nation we invaded for no particular reason".

Leno/Letterman and the Late Night Couch: Candidates talk about tell anecdotes about their childhood, plug their new book or an appearance on SNL, ask passersby some JayWalk questions and read a Top Ten list.

American Idol: Both appear in front of Simon, Paula and the other guy, and sing their economic programs. The home TV audience votes.

Stare contest: Both candidates stare at each other, and the first one to smile or laugh, loses.

and finally, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?----with all questions posed at the fifth grade level.


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