Debates: how about less glitz, more substance; are direct primaries overrated?

I understand that the televised debates in this 2016 presidential election campaign are getting unusually high ratings for such affairs. I suppose that is good. But I am dismayed that such a serious thing as a debate for the electing of a president has been turned into something tawdry or glitzy like a circus or maybe an NFL game, or a pro-wrestling match.

You have the pre-game show, running commentary even as the so-called debate progresses, and of course the post game show too.

And in the Republican debates we have had so many people on the stage that it is some kind of crazy free-for-all with each one vying for attention, sometimes resorting to name calling. And the crazy rule that if you mention one candidate the other one gets to chime in next — so why does anyone mention anyone else’s name? I wonder.

In this melee very little substance can come out. And it’s too bad that those day-after-the-debate fact checking stories cannot run on the screen as the debate progresses. Now that would be a good use of modern technology (but who checks the fact checkers?).

But really these affairs are not formal debates. Some people call them forums. They look like something that ought to be held in the Forum — the Roman Forum, complete with gladiators being eaten by hungry lions.

The Democratic debates have been less chaotic and little more substantive with three people and now only two. But even in them I wished they had a more formal debate — and that leads me to a complaint that the moderators and/or professional media questioners seem to be determining the issues by being able to come up with the questions and phrasing them in such a way that sometimes almost sounds prejudicial. And I am no media basher. I once worked in the field of journalism — hey, don’t shoot the messenger and we are just trying to draw out information politicians might want to hide.

I would prefer the questions be formulated by some independent panel (whatever happened to the League of Women Voters anyway?). Drawing out questions from social media (as is done sometimes) is good too. But the emphasis should be on the candidates themselves. I would like to see actual formal debates where the candidate has to present a case complete with evidence and make a persuasive argument and then be able to rebut his or her opponent’s presentation. Of course this requires just two people at a time I think.

And maybe the primary system is not what it is cracked up to be. Political parties serve a purpose or should. They allow people who generally share concepts but not necessarily specifics to coalesce their divergent approaches into coherent policy proposals and come up with candidates to represent the party. Maybe those parties should choose their candidates and then present them to the voters and then the candidates of the parties (pretty much either Republican or Democrat in the U.S.) can debate formally one on one.

It had seemed it would be more democratic (small d) to turn the nomination system over to the general public as we have for the most part in our modern, albeit long-drawn out, direct primary elections, but I am not sure of that. With each candidate having to run his or her own show, the candidate must raise millions of dollars and in the process can become beholden to special interests, not to mention so much time wasted dialing for dollars.

I was watching a video of one of the Kennedy-Nixon debates. The set was so spartan, and the media people so unglamorous. I guess that would not get high ratings today.

But then again, I would prefer only serious people take part in the voting. Those who must have glitz or bells and whistles to attract them may not really understand the issues anyway, and it is a danger that they would vote.

There is a danger we might get a buffoon for president who promises the make America great again (I did not know it was not).

p.s.

Or an extremely narrow-minded man might “cruz” to a victory (I just read the latest South Carolina primary poll, Ted Cruz, 28 percent of Republican voters, Donald Trump 26 (NBC/Wall Street Journal).

Okay, to be fair, for that matter Bernie Sanders could get elected and try to turn us into communists or at least European democratic socialists.

 

 

 

 

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