Alright. Here’s the deal. Don’t read another word if (a) you’re a Democrat and can’t put that aside or (b) if you’re a Republican and can’t do the same. I’m gonna say some kind - and some unkind - things here and I don’t want a lot of hate mail saying what’s being written is biased in either direction.
Now do it! Or quit right here.
At our house, we sat through what have euphemistically been called Republican “debates” and we’ve now watched the one joint appearance of Democratic presidential candidates. The former was a waste of time - theirs and ours. The latter was both engaging and informative - for all.
The difference wasn’t in the candidates or their political party affiliation. It was in the presentation. It was in the format. It was in the substance. Ignore who sponsored what or who asked what question or who attacked whom or any other extraneous B.S.. The experiences were very, very dissimilar. For good reason.
Fact: there hasn’t been a political “debate” on TV since William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal savaged each other in the ‘60's. Not one. The closest to that term might have been the Kennedy-Nixon appearances in 1960 but, even then, what little “debate” there was, seemed overshadowed by the personalities. The media needs to get over this “debate” label and find something more descriptive. (Mud wrestling comes quickly to mind.)
The Republican appearances - regardless of sponsor - have been colossal failures. No issues addressed. No inkling of any participant’s thought processes revealed. No presidential qualifications discussed or displayed. Lots of carping. Some useless bantering. Nonsense questions. No meaningful follow ups. Junk. So far.
Now, the Democrats. Separate one-on-one questions - more like conversations - each person talking with a single host/moderator. Each made his/her points without interruption. Each responded to questions and situations designed to bring out some knowledge of their character or where they stood on foreign aid, immigration, budgeting, cross-party relationships, wars this nation is involved in, voter discrimination and other subjects. There was substance, real information and a more personal view of candidates thinking “on their feet.” While sitting.
Now, some Republican partisan is going to quickly and loudly claim you can’t do that with 15 candidates. Yes, you can! You could do it just as well and produce the same realistic, personal appearance by each one. Can do!
The MSNBC show ran 90 minutes. Each candidate got about 20 minutes with timeouts for commercials, scene-setting, open and close. If you recall, the first GOP “debate” ran three hours. Twice 90 minutes. A couple of the participants - two who won’t be on any Republican Party general election ballot in 2016 - complained three hours was too long and they wouldn’t “play” anymore if future appearances ran longer than two hours. So, the broadcast networks caved.
But, let’s consider this. Three hours or 180 minutes, with commercials and other network business deducted, would leave some 140 minutes open. Now, if you use the current polling percentage qualification, you’d have probably nine people. If you want to lessen the field - as it will be eventually - raise the polling qualification bar to 8-9%. That would likely give you six candidates and more time for each.
But, even with nine participants, each would have 15 uninterrupted minutes with one person asking questions. That would give each person a lengthy period to answer, make statements, work in campaign positions and take the time necessary to make their points. No interference or side-tracking. If they wanted to wander off into the swamps of bitching, complaining about their fellow candidates or make wild charges, that would come out of their allotted time. With that format, each would have total control of what he/she said, what he/she thought was important and be able to literally make their own case. Uninterrupted. Direct. And you could rotate moderators for each period if desired. (Six candidates would have 20+ minutes. Each.)
The GOP “debates” so far, have given us - the voters - nothing! The candidates are unhappy. The viewers are both unhappy and poorly served The Republican National Committee is complaining. We’ve had lots of excuses from all involved but nothing proposed to get it right.
I think MSNBC did it right. We follow politics more than the average bear(s) at our house. And even we learned some new things from each of the Democrats using this different approach to dealing with candidates.
This is not a Republican thing nor a Democrat thing. It is a production thing. A process thing. Staging. Making the most of limited time for each candidate while giving viewers better insight to thought processes, individual knowledge of the job being sought and a better look at each one.
The Republican Party is in a total mess by its own making. Wounds on the GOP body politic were self-inflicted. The predominance of totally unqualified presidential candidates is the result. At the moment, two of the “unfittest” are drowning out a couple who should be more prominent and given an unfettered chance to make their cases. One more travesty like the CNBC fiasco and people will begin tuning out big time. That’s not fair to the qualified candidates or the voter. Not when it can be fixed!