October 21, 2012

Getting the final word on debates

As a country we just watched, with rapt attention, a second presidential debate. The third and final debate will be held Monday.

I just wish we had more.

If I was given the ability to shape our nation’s system of elections and campaigning, I would ban the billions of dollars of political advertising that we have to endure every four years — take that money and put it to good use, feeding the hungry, giving healthcare to the poor, buying electronic textbooks for every student.

Advertising is by far the most prevalent way for politicians to influence voters, and for the most part — in addition to being insanely annoying — it’s tragically misleading.

Instead of endless commercials, I would schedule more debates. Lots and lots of debates, all the time, on every possible topic. Make candidates actually talk about the issues, to each other, on the record, without rehearsal or retakes or post-production editing. For everyone to see.

The only problem with my plan, as far as I can see, is that, while we can guarantee almost everyone in the country will see a political ad crammed into an “American Idol” commercial break, we can’t promise that every American will tune in to watch a debate.

Having watched every minute of the previous debates, I have to admit that, despite their obvious value, as far as reality television goes, debates can be a little dry. We’re not talking “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

If we’re going to have constant debates, we’ll have to mix up the formats to keep them fresh and interesting.

I, for one, would be fascinated by a completely virtual debate. Each candidate is given nothing but an iPhone, and for 90 minutes, all questions are asked and answered on Twitter, limited to 140 characters. #Awesome.

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