The Presidential Candidate Debates Are a Circus, but a New Debate Format Can Fix That
When presidential debates become a media circus, it's the voters who lose. But an alternative debate format would eliminate the kind of candidate-moderator feud that is dominating our political moment.
John Donvan is co-author of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, He is also a contributing correspondent to ABC News, where his career postings from the past thirty years have included: Chief White House Correspondent, Chief Moscow Correspondent, Amman Bureau Chief, Jerusalem Correspondent, London Correspondent, Eastern Europe Correspondent, and, most recently, a regular correspondent for Nightline. He is also a debate moderator at Intelligence Squared U.S..
John Donvan: The public is so politicized that if I were moderating a presidential debate and I were to say to one of the candidates, you know, you’re really off point and you’re not responding, everybody would think that that means I’m on the other guy’s side. And that doesn’t happen in the Intelligence Squared debates. I don’t know why, but the audience recognizes and understands that what I’m trying to do is to protect the integrity of the debate. That if I’m calling somebody for not really debating well, our audience gets it that what I’m trying to do is to make the debate better. Not help one side or the other. I think in the presidential debates the moderators if they don’t interrupt, it’s their fault for letting the debate run off the rails. And if they do interrupt, they get attacked for taking sides. And that’s why I think it’s a sort of no — it’s a very difficult situation. I actually think and we have proposed to the presidential debate commission that they do the debates our way. Have a stated motion, do an Oxford-style debate — at least one time. I would be happy to moderate it. You’re going to debate about for and against this motion. You’re going to be okay with me interrupting. You won’t take it as an insult. You won’t take it as me taking sides. And may the best person win.
Our presidential debate moderators are stuck in an impossible position: Either they allow candidates to spin and not give real answers to questions, or, when they interrupt and insist on a genuine response, they're interpreted as having a personal agenda. The results are a politicized public, a suspicious pool of candidates, and the loss of a democratic forum.
John Donvan, moderator of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debates, has proposed an alternate debate format to fix the current circus that are our presidential debates: an Oxford-style debate, or parliamentary debate, where a topic is set for the entire evening and candidates take a "for" or "against" position. This format keeps candidates from fearing "gotcha" questions, allows moderators to enter the debate without fear of reprisal, and preserves what is intended to be a uniquely democratic forum.
It turns out the human scalp has an olfactory receptor that seems to play a crucial role in regulating hair follicle growth and death.
The best self-directed learners use these seven habits to improve their knowledge and skills in any subject.
- Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Ellen DeGeneres all dropped out of college, yet they became leaders in their fields. Their secret? Self-directed learning.
- Self-directed learning can help people expand their knowledge, gain new skills, and improve upon their liberal education.
- Following habits like Benjamin Franklin's five-hour rule, the 80/20 rule, and SMART goals can help self-directed learners succeed in their pursuits.
It happens every few years. Not just in Greece, but also parts of the United States.
- Aitoliko, in Western Greece is the town these images are from.
- Tetragnatha is the genus — known as "stretch spiders" because of their elongated bodies.
- They can run faster on water than on land. Don't panic, though: they will be gone in days.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.