On Sunday night I watched the presidential debate. It was ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I was highly entertained. But the debate failed miserably at its sole purpose: helping Americans become better-informed voters. There was so much talk about non-issues, non-answering of questions and unverified fact-spewing that all of America was dumber for having watched it. Entertained, but dumber.
When it was finally over I switched channels and watched the Sunday night football game. Taking in the final 15:00 minutes of the Packers and Giants game was like mental sorbet, cleansing my palette before I prepared to think like a human again on Monday morning.
But a funny thing happened when I woke up the next morning. I had an idea to solve the debate problem.
Let’s make debates more like football games.
One of the great things about a football game is that it follows a clearly defined set of rules. There are pre-established ways to score points. There are also consequences for breaking the rules. The debates should have the same structure.
Instead of having a moderator like, say, Lester ‘Don’t-Mind-Me’ Holt, we would have referees, like Ed Hochuli. Ed is a trial lawyer when he’s not flexing his zebra stripes. He’s the man we need controlling the candidates.
The Perfect Agency Project’s debates look something like this:
- Moderators are replaced by referees (didn’t I just say that?): refs put the question in motion, blow whistles to stop the talk and penalize participants for breaking the rules of the debate.
- Penalties: The ultimate penalty in a debate is air time. If you fail to answer the question, stray off topic or introduce false information, you have to sit out questions. Debaters have to serve there ‘Time Outs’ in a hockey-style penalty box. I would have Martha Stewart design it.
- Run over your time limit: a whistle blows and your mic is cut off. If we can humiliate Hollywood stars by cutting their mics off during an acceptance speech, surely we can do the same to long-winded presidential candidates.
- Talk when it’s not your turn: You lose time. This is just like being offsides in football. Or encroachment. Or interference.
- Unpresidential-like conduct: Your mic is cut off. A third-party candidate walks on stage and replaces you for the next question.
- Answer a question: score points on a 1 to 7 scale based on the quality of your answer.
- Don’t answer the question: no points
- Make false claims: the referees stops the debate, sites the facts, sends you to the Martha Stewart penalty box.
- Nachos: Let’s all eat them. Just because.
But this is just a start. Now it’s time to add your ideas to the comment box. Don’t mention any candidates by name. It’s not that kind of show. Just the football-style rules we could incorporate to make the debates fair and informative. Points will be awarded for good rules. A flag will be thrown on anything that is offsides. Ready? Set. Omaha!