I don’t care who your favorite candidate was, none of them came away looking good. And, when none of our Republican candidates look good in Presidential debates, we all lose.
Now, imagine how much worse those debates would have been with twice as many candidates on the stage. Twice as many interruptions, twice as many distractions, twice as many non-answers, twice as much grandstanding, twice as many opportunities to make all Republicans look bad.
Nobody wants to watch such an absolute train wreck, but it’s coming.
There’s a strong chance we’ll have as many as 16 candidates, if not more, in the 2016 race by the time the debates start this fall. The RNC desperately wants to avoid embarrassing any of our candidates, but the best option they’ve floated so far is eliminating candidates based on averages of public polls, an option nobody likes because the bar would be arbitrary and likely eliminate the only black and only female candidate.
Since the RNC hasn’t been able to offer any viable or likable solutions, why not blow up the traditional format entirely and try some much needed innovation? This morning, I offered my own solution on Facebook.
Here’s the pitch: Bracket tourney of one-on-one, Lincoln-Douglas debates over twelve weeks this fall. Initial seeds based on poll averages, double-elimination, winners determined by a 50/50 weighted vote of judges and the public. Half-hour debates, two a night, with more time each round.
The most serious candidates get the most air time, less serious ones are removed, in a way that’s completely fair and transparent. Two person debates are much more intimate, informative, and engaging. It pairs experienced, knowledgeable judgment with real-time popular opinion and audience engagement.
I was surprised how quickly the concept caught on, there’s already a Facebook page promoting the idea with nearly three dozen supporters in less than an hour. But, I was even more surprised how much I wanted to see the concept of 1-on-1, bracketed debates happen.
It’d be incredibly engaging, even for people with little interest in politics. It’d be more informative, providing a better forum for candidates to express their ideas and contrast them with a single opponent’s. It’d be more credible, as candidates wouldn’t be talking over each other. And, it’d be much easier to pin down someone offering questionable, vague, or erroneous answers.
The only downside would be the “American Idol-ization” of politics. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Reality television shows, for all the generes many flaws, are among the most popular, highest watched programs when they are executed well. Why not give people what they want? It’d still be serious, we’d still be watching candidates talk about politics, but it’d be much more engaging and compelling for ordinary Americans. And honestly, we should be willing to try anything to reach more voters in a positive way.
If you have a better idea, I’d love to hear it in the comments section. If you’ve found a flaw in this one, please let me know. But, if you’d like to see something like this happen, please help make this concept a reality. You don’t need to contribute money, I don’t care about your email address, just like the Facebook page and please tell your friends to do the same.