The CNBC-hosted third GOP debate illustrated that Americans, of both parties, deserve a better way of learning about potential presidential nominees. The moderators were openly hostile and condescending. They did not give the candidates equal time or allow them to fully answer questions. They also asked meaningless questions such as what were the candidates’ top three favorite apps or their opinion on fantasy football.
While CNBC has clearly been the most biased (and rude) of the networks hosting the debates, it is only fair to point out that other networks tried to advance their points-of-view, were at times discourteous, and could have done a much better job of creating a more meaningful and informative discussion among the candidates. It is clear that the moderators and networks, no matter their political and ideological stances, cannot conduct a nonbiased, informative debate among the candidates which allows for equal time among them.
To solve this problem, the debates should completely remove the moderators. Instead, the candidates should speak for a pre-established amount of time and other candidates should have time for rebuttal and questions. Each of the debates should focus on a certain issue and then be divided into subtopics to be discussed for a pre-established amount of time. For example, the CNBC-hosted debate, which was supposed to be focused on the economy, should have been divided into the following subtopics: unemployment, labor force participation, job growth, manufacturing, international trade, the minimum wage, and income inequality. The American people would judge candidates on their views on an issue, questions they ask, and differences between their positions.
Equal time would be enforced via the following system. When a candidate is out of time, a buzzer would sound. If candidates speak past the buzzer, the amount of time in which they exceed the time limit would be deducted from the amount of time they could speak at their next opportunity (for example, if the time limit for each response was one minute and a candidate spoke for one minute and fifteen seconds, that candidate could only speak for 45 seconds at their next speaking opportunity). To keep the process honest and engage the viewers at home, a clock should be on the screen — like during a sports broadcast — to inform viewers how much time a candidate has used.
The political parties should have enough debates to cover the major issues (such as the economy, foreign policy, the national debt, education, poverty, climate change, gun control, etc.). Moreover, each party should cover the same issues so that the American people can compare the parties and candidates’ views on them. The political parties would accomplish this goal by negotiating which topics should be addressed. Of course, the parties would have to discuss topics that are not their preferred areas (such as Democrats discussing the doubling of the national debt in the past eight years or Republicans discussing climate change). That discomfort, however, is a good thing because Americans have different issues which are important to them and they want to know where the candidates stand on them.
This new format for presidential debates would be a vast improvement over the current system. It would eliminate moderator biases, ensure that candidates have equal time to speak, force discussion on important issues and subtopics, and create an environment in which the different political parties address the same issues. Let’s hope that both parties utilize the furor over the CNBC-moderated debate to change the format of the presidential debates.
Michael B. Abramson is an Advisor with the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and the state chair of Georgia for Jews Choose Trump (www.jewschoosetrump.org). He is an attorney in Atlanta and managing partner of the Abramson Law Firm. He is the author of A Playbook for Taking Back America: Lessons from the 2012 Presidential Election. His articles can be found at http://www.michaelbabramson.