The dominant feeling that flushed over me at the end of last nights’ debate was: I am embarrassed to be an American.
This is the state of our democracy. A mediocre moderator unable to guide a fork-tongued crank and a genial befuddler through any meaningful discourse beyond the overriding message that we are clearly in deep trouble.
For worse or worser, these two old white men intent upon atrocious teenage behavior are the two options between which the United States’ electorate must choose to be President. Since they refuse to act with the dignity the office deserves, it is incumbent upon the Commission on Presidential Debates and the broadcast networks, to present the debates in a manner that might offer us voters at least some modicum of useful information. Not changes to the rules (which had already been agreed to by both sides, and then rampaged over in real time). Two simple changes in how the debates themselves are transmitted to viewers:
- Silence everyone’s microphone except during his designated airtime. Silence both candidates while a question is being asked. Silence the opposition candidate during one person’s two-minute response, then flip for the rebuttal. The only time that the viewing audience should hear both candidates at the same time is when both candidates are ‘supposed’ to be allowed to talk at, over, and through each other.
- Show on screen only the person who is speaking. During each candidate’s designated time, show only that candidate. And vice-versa. This will save the folks at home the excruciating facial antics of the candidate who is supposed to be silent. Use the ‘split-screen’ only during time when both candidates are allowed to be speaking.
Are these changes petty and adolescent? You bet. But for those of us who look to the debates as a way to measure each man and his positions so that we can execute our responsibility and vote as informed citizens, these changes might provide us more actual substance with less of the inflated, interruptive rancor we witnessed last night.