Watching the most recent debate between Bob Stefanowski and Ned Lamont the CTMirror reported that there were a “few zingers” but little substance. The audience, although frequently admonished, added to the casual atmosphere that we were attending an entertainment event rather than a political debate, by hooting, whistling, and applauding.
Let’s face it, debates are forums in which each candidate tried to get the best, as the CTMirror puts it, “zingers” and hammer home one point whether it is factual or impactful or not. Stefanowski’s mantra was “taxes” and the inevitability that Lamont, being a Democrat, would raise taxes. On the other hand, Lamont described how his opponent would rip the very textbooks from our children’s hands, take grandma’s life-saving medicine away, and resurrect the long-settled issue of pre-existing conditions. The only problem is that none of it is true. It is basically 90 minutes of what we common folk refer to as bullshit.
Who, “won” the debate? On my scorecard I had Steph by a “nose”. Not that his plan was any better, but he was more comfortable and more entertaining. WRT whose plan was better, neither man provided any useful information which would aid in a responsible voter’s evaluation.
As such, these debates fail to provide useful information, to the contrary, any information that they do provide is misleading or incorrect. In fact, that is a strategy that some pundits teach in debate preparation and which we saw both Stefanowski and Lamont employed.
To wit, if it is your question, you have two minutes. So, you answer the question and then end with a statement about your opponent that you know or should know is untrue. This forces the opponent to exhaust his/her rebuttal time to correct your statement. Check it yourself. (You can see Ned Lamont expertly wield this technique if you go to 37’00” of the debate replay on CT-N). It is done in every political debate.
In addition, as we saw from the 2016 primary and presidential debates. This format is subject to misuse and can be easily corrupted or exploited. We know that Donna Brazil and CNN shared questions with Hillary Clinton to the detriment of poor hapless Bernie Sanders, who still doesn’t know what hit him. Now, these two points should be enough for scrapping the whole idea. However, there is some value in having the opportunity of seeing and hearing the two candidates answering questions side by side,
So, with all that in mind. Here is my idea for a new debate format.
- The debates are structured like Hoover Institute’s “Uncommon Knowledge” (check it out on YouTube) and issues are discussed in intimate detail with 2 or 3 interviewers and last 2-2½ hours each.
- There may be two or three interviews focusing on biography and education, political values and why these are important, and specific plans and programs which they intend to implement. This will allow a deep dive into the candidate’s plan.
- The interviews are done simultaneously, but separately, and without an audience.
- The candidate’s writings, advertising, position papers, and resume should be examined in detail by the interviewers who are selected from the public with one left leaning and one right leaning. N.B. that the interviewers are citizens, people from business and industry and not pundits, not reporters, not editors. We want the interview to be as unbiased as possible, and for the questions to be substantive and informative, not “gotchas”.
Here is what I consider the clincher! The interviewers will ask the candidates to provide a metric by which we can evaluate success or failure for each of their initiatives. Something definite and objectively and accurately measurable. Lamont says that he will close the “achievement gap”. How then will that be measured and what is the goal? Steph is going to phase out the personal income tax which will reduce taxes and increase revenue. When and by how much?
The interviews should be edited very basically and uploaded for viewing on CT-N and YouTube as well as TV (Maybe the News12 or WTNH gets a first showing option to recoup some money).
What do you think? I believe that everybody will support except the candidates.