I watched about 15 minutes of the vice presidential debate—about the same amount of time I spent watching the first presidential debate. I cannot stand more. I don’t have heart problems or high blood pressure, but I might if I watched an entire debate.
They just don’t make any sense. Their only benefit is to the television channels, where they increase ratings and ad revenues. I have no desire to help the TV moguls increase their profits.
The participants don’t answer questions, they evade them. The questions themselves from the moderators are insipid and biased. The real issues (as I see them) are never allowed to surface. Everyone interrupts and talks over everyone. I cannot recall a single instance where my vote has changed because of a candidate’s answers or conduct, and post-debate polls show that’s the case with most voters.
I took part in debate class in high school. A major purpose was to require us to take both sides on the debate topic—teaching us how to research the topic, and the valuable lesson that there really may be two sides to a topic, with the “winner” being the debater who is better at building his or her arguments and then presenting them. Debate rules were rigidly enforced.
That is not how it goes with these presidential and vice presidential “debates.” They are circuses, not debates.
One specific reform, however, could solve one of the problems with the debates—the bias of the moderators. Simply eliminate their role except as timekeepers.
With the media being almost entirely leftist and Democratic in its sentiments, this is a problem especially for the Republicans in the debates. Even when the debate is moderated by someone from the “conservative” cable channel, Fox News, it is the most liberal of Fox’s hosts—Chris Wallace. Tucker Carlson has no chance of becoming a debate moderator. And I don’t understand why Republicans put up with this bias.
Give candidate A one minute to pose a specific question directly to candidate B. Give candidate B three minutes to answer. And then vice versa. Limit the moderator to the role of timekeeper, perhaps armed with an airhorn or microphone silencer when a candidate goes more than a half-minute over those limits. A flashing light on each candidate’s dais would warn them when they have reached the end of their time. Do this twelve times—24 questions total—and you have an hour and a half of a more satisfying debate.
This won’t solve all the other problems in these debates. But it will solve the problem of moderator bias. If the Republican candidate fails to ask hard-hitting questions of the Democrat, instead of softballs, then at least it is the candidate’s fault, not the moderator’s fault. And if the Democrat evades giving a direct answer, the Republican can scold that opponent during the next round and perhaps repeat the question, demanding an answer.
In the 15 minutes of the vice presidential debate that I watched, for example, the first question from the moderator to Kamala Harris was a good one: “What would a Biden administration do in January and February that a Trump administration wouldn’t do? Would you impose new lockdowns for businesses and schools in hotspots? A federal mandate to wear masks?” Kamala predictably evaded answering either of those questions, instead pivoting to blather about the Trump administration’s handling of the virus. There was no follow-up from the moderator demanding an answer.
With the moderator out of the picture, it would have been Vice President Pence’s role to demand an answer, and if he failed to do that we could blame him and not the moderator. And that would be a modest improvement over the present circus.