Change the candidate debate format

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Watching the most recent debate between the candidates for Connecticut’s next governor, CTMirror reported that there were a “few zingers” but little substance. The audience, although frequently admonished, added to the casual atmosphere, creating the feeling 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 tries to get the best, as the CTMirror puts it, “zingers” and hammer home one point whether it is factual or impactful or not.

Who “won” the debate? I don’t know, but neither man provided any useful information which would aid in a responsible voter’s evaluation.

As such, these debates not only fail to provide useful information, but 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 one which we saw both candidates employ.

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 at the 37-minute mark on CT-N’s on-demand video.

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 debate 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 two or three 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.
  • 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.”
  • This also will help any independent candidates, as the interviews will provide a meaningful forum for these candidates to get their full message out to the public. This will probably be the most important information with which we make our decision and deep-pockets make no difference.
  • But here’s my favorite part! 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. If you are going to close the “achievement gap” or phase out the income tax, 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 this idea except the candidates and the parties.

Nicholas Malino is a founding member of the Progressive Conservative Alliance and chairman of the Conservative Party of Connecticut. He is Managing Member of Tango Research, LLC a hedge fund in Connecticut and New York. He has two books published on financial subjects.


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