The present day Presidential Debate format is hardly conducive to delving substantially into a candidate’s position and proposed solutions and then allowing that position to be dissected by fellow debaters.
A candidate makes various assertions and then there’s about enough time for a childish “Did not!” “Did too!” exchange or two with the opposition. Then the moderator tries to move to the next question.
Viewers actually learn virtually nothing.
Debate rulesmakers have carefully evolved to this format. Perhaps it’s because they think that’s all the average American’s attention span can handle. Perhaps they really don’t want matters of substance to be exposed. Whatever their motivation, the current iteration is an insult to and dis-respective of voters, especially given what’s at stake.
In the current format a moderator asks a question. Then the candidate has 2 minutes to answer the question. After this, the opposing candidate has around 1 minute to respond and rebut her/his arguments. At the moderator’s discretion, the discussion of the question may be extended by 30 seconds per candidate.
Can substantial information be divulged and quality insight be gained under such time constraints? Furthermore, the candidates rarely respect the time structure anyway.
In the last presidential debate between Trump and Biden, both candidates and the moderator were interrupting and talking over one another with no regard for protocol. It was more chaotic than a WWF wrestling match.
Contrast the debates you’ve been able to watch during the last few election cycles with the structure followed in the infamous Lincoln-Douglas debates.
They agreed to conduct 7 debates. Each debate lasted 3 hours. The format was that one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute rejoinder. The candidates alternated speaking first at subsequent debates.
A candidate had to be a studious note-taker while the opponent spoke continuously for an hour, and then for 90 minutes, in order to address the different bullet points in the oration. Perhaps that would have mitigated interruptions that are so prevalent today.
Speaking for 60 or 90 minutes would require the candidates come to the debate prepared with detail compared with what they appear to do now – just listen for a few key words and throw out a challenge with the intent to discredit and derail.
Ninety minutes of Biden droning on or Trump repeating redundantly nonstop probably wouldn’t do much for ratings. But something in between might be more informative, constructive and civil than the current format with its marginal value.
Unless your prefer a circus with all acts performing at once.