Greater Fool / Past Work

The Friday Fool: A Debate on Debates

the CNN-Youtube Republican Debate

the CNN-Youtube Republican Debate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every Friday, The Greater Fool will have a segment called the Friday Fool.  The Friday Fool is a rant, opinion, or something of notice we would liked changed.  Every week we will have a different topic.  If possible we will try to tie it to some of the week’s headlines.  The idea is to give attention to some of the less thought about issues, but more importantly to let you decided how you feel.  The Friday Fool will always end with a poll, and we welcome comments and suggestions in the comment section at the bottom.  Enjoy!

Anyone watching the debate this past Wednesday may have noticed that moderator Jim Lehrer struggled greatly, or maybe you didn’t even realize there was a moderator.  The two Presidential candidates dominated the debate by overstepping rules, going over on time, and giving the people virtually no information.  We have the review of the debate here, but this entry will focus on something else.  Jim Lehrer was utterly inadequate as America’s moderator of the first debate, and much of America feels the same way.  Some of the popular thing rending on Twitter during the debate were #poorJim, and #WillMcAcoy (the ACN anchor from The Newsroom who famously wanted to change the debate format).  So we raise the question.  Is it time for a change?

I’ll first give you a little context of how the debate process works.  The Presidential debates have been around for a number of years.  An independent group called the League of Women voters originally moderated the debates.  In 1987 both the Democratic and Republican parties created the Commission on Presidential debates to control the organization of the debates.  Yes you heard that right, the two political parties involved in the debate, have been running the debates since 1988.  These are some pretty heavy implications, so what does this mean?  Basically this means that the two parties agree and control just about everything involved in the debate.  They agree on everything from the look of the stage, to what pens are used.  They choose who is involved, making it very unlikely that a third-party member can get a seat in the debates.  More importantly the choose what they subjects of discussion are and who moderates the debates.

English: Christopher Hitchens speaks at a thir...

English: Christopher Hitchens speaks at a third party protest at the Presidential Debates Commission, Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people may not have a problem with this, but everyone should.  For a country that people call the Land of Freedom, we have an awfully weird way of showing it.  First lets focus on the fact that third-party members are virtually ignored in the debate process.  Everyone knows who the Republican and Democratic candidates are every year.  These are the two parties with the most money and power in our government.  They have the most money to spend on ads, and as stated earlier control the debate process.  George Washington famously expressed his thoughts on political parties in his Farewell Address to the nation when he said:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Sounds familiar when you think about it.  The two major political parties have been quite successful at keeping third parties out of the presidential debates.  Would it hurt to hear more opinions than the two opposing ones we are presented every day.  The public has become accustomed to the us vs. them attitude, without realizing there are ways of thinking between two extremes.  We can talk about this for hours, but we will move on for the sake of time.  As long as you are aware the problem exists, it is up to you to decide what you believe.

Ron Paul supporters at a pre-debate rally in M...

Ron Paul supporters at a pre-debate rally in Manchester, New Hampshire on June 5, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we stated earlier, the Commission on Presidential Debates is controlled by the two major political parties.  They are able to choose the topics of the debate and who moderates the debate.  Any sensible person can see the problem with this logic.  The moderator is supposed act as the voice of the people in the debate process, challenging, questioning, and digging for more information from the candidates on the issues the public cares about.  As was evident in this past debate, the American public received none of that.  Many people throughout the country use these debates to make their voting decisions.  If the moderator does not ask the right questions and challenge the candidates when they avoid answers, how is public supposed to make an informed decision?  It took five minutes into the last debate before the candidates started ignoring questions to focus on political statements and talking points they wanted to reach.  If a candidate gives misinformation, or spins information to make themselves sound more favorable, they should be called out. 

When the topics are chosen by the political parties, it ensures that no controversial issues come into discussion.  It ensures that the public hears what the politicians want them to hear.  It ensures that not all the questions, wants, and needs are raised.  Its time for a change in the debate process.  More parties need access, and the power of control needs to be given back to the people.  The people need answers not spun speeches.  Let us know what you think in the poll and post your ideas in the comments below.

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