Referee Whistle: How to Broadcast the Presidential Debates

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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4 Responses to Referee Whistle: How to Broadcast the Presidential Debates

  1. YB says:

    That was painful. I follow Dan Rather on twitter who said: “I have seen a lot in my 60-plus years as a reporter. But I have never seen anything quite like what took place tonight. Instead of having answers at this point, I am left with one question: Really???”

    Not quite a succinct as “that was a shitshow” but as an American I felt empty and exhausted after the debate. My only hope is that everyone has pretty much decided who they are voting for. Anyone who says they are on the fence is probably just trying to conceal that they are voting for Trump. I have a gut feeling of optimism, but I also had that same feeling in 2016. Hoping the America I grew up with will show up and vote.

    Nice to read your post Paul and I hope all is well with you in spite of “gestures widely at everything.”

  2. paulefallon says:

    Thanks for reading and sharing your reply. And yes, let’s all vote

  3. Scott Stine says:

    Also your words and compelling: “If Haiti is a country of teenagers, the United States is a country of spoiled brats. We have forgotten that our beautiful country with its bountiful resources and enlightened form of government requires a diligent, educated, involved citizenry to remain strong. Instead of engaging a rapidly globalized world, we are slipping in education, in competitiveness, and in stature… When Rome burned, Nero at least made beautiful music; all we make is partisan noise.” (Fallon, “Architecture by Moonlight,” 223)

  4. paulefallon says:

    Thank you Scott, for being a regular reader in all of my formats! Hope you are well.

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