During an election year, whether it’s in Canada or south of our border, the debate is a regular, and oft expected, occurrence. Those organizing the television debate format would say these events are perfect for introducing candidates with whom voters may not yet be familiar. It gives them a better feel for who the candidates are. Are they powerhouses or milquetoasts? Can they articulate the issues or are they just repeating the party line?
In the U.S. there have been a couple of debates to prepare Americans for the national election: the first for the President and the second for the VP. After each, the networks spoke with “undecided” voters about their reactions to the candidates’ performances.
Ironically, most viewers felt the Trump/Biden debate did little to either make up or change their minds. However, there was a lot of discussion about the candidates’ behaviour with each other and the moderator. Even more discussion centred on the extensive list of falsehoods and misleading statements that were made during the night.
So people weren’t necessarily listening to the arguments – not that you could clearly hear much with the constant interruptions and talking over each other – and the few coherent points that were made were often lies.
Meanwhile, the Vice Presidential debate was a different story. While a more civilized event with Pence practically hypnotizing audiences with his slow and soft-spoken rhetoric versus Harris’ calm but direct prosecutor tone, neither candidate seemed to be willing to answer the actual questions that were posed to them. And news anchors, along with the debate moderator herself, felt that once again, it did little to affect the minds of voters.
In fact, according to media voices, the VP debate, as a rule, rarely has any effect on voters. Which then begs the question: Why bother with televised debates anymore?
Is it the entertainment factor? Many found the first debate difficult to watch.
Is it to be educational? The first debate involved the candidates interrupting and speaking incoherently over each other. And if much of what is said is untrue, viewers aren’t learning anything helpful.
Is it the advertising dollar? There are no commercial breaks and therefore, no advertising time to sell.
I’d love to see the traditional televised debate format tossed. Instead, get one moderator and a panel of non-partisan fact-checkers. And forget about the tradition news professional as moderator. UFC mixed martial arts champ Connor McGregor has announced he wants to come out of retirement for a fight before the end of the year. Hire him instead. Who would defy his instructions?
And forget the polite questions. Let the each fact-checker throw the candidates’ previous statements back at them and make them explain the researched truths.
Personally, I’d find that highly entertaining. Also, most people – including the candidates – would be better educated when faced with hard facts from real experts.
Heck, let McGregor turn it into a cage-match and advertisers will be begging to sponsor each lie of the night.