This is too crazy to ever happen, I know. Just bear with me, it’s like a Christmas wish list.
Here’s what we DON’T have in my format: media-hack “moderators” , FacebookTwitterInstagramEmailGrindr-submitted questions from “real people”, artificial polling requirements to exclude candidates, or lecterns.
The format: a table at which Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Donald Trump and Jill Stein are sitting. They are all serious, 50-state candidates. If I’m leaving out anyone you think matches that description, get another chair.
In part one of the debate, after the obligatory opening statements, a major topic (not a question) is introduced. For example, “ISIS” or “jobs growth”. Each candidate has a nice chunk of time to talk about it in any way they like, to show they’ve thought about it and what we should do about it. No more “what will you do for me?” softballs. Let ’em mix it up a little AFTER everyone has a solo turn.
Think that’s weird? Wait til Part 2.
After we get through a few of those, with no joker cards asking about your favorite pizza topping, the most recent president from each party takes a turn moderating. Currently, that would be Barack Obama and George W. Bush. During each man’s moderating stint, they can probe the candidates, from the standpoint of “I actually had to deal with that, and it wasn’t as easy as you think…” or however they choose to go. How they use the time is up to them, but each candidate gets to answer each question with equal time. In the event of unavailability or death, their VP will do.
“You want to do this job? I actually did it.” Reality check.
How would you get these ex-presidents to participate? I have no idea. Maybe you couldn’t. Of course, they will be legacy-conscious and biased, but that’s why you have one D, one R.
Candidate response times would be generous, longer than anything you’ve heard in the modern era, because the questions would be few. The three or four major concerns of the moment. Nothing exotic. Experience tells us that anyone can sound tight and succinct for 30 or 60 seconds. Give an ignoramus more time and rope, and he or she hangs themselves.
And that’s it. No media games of pitting one against another, or asking stacked questions like “Some will say…” or “Isn’t it true…?” Will the candidates interrupt each other? Yes, but less often if they’re sitting in close proximity (it’s psychology) and know they will each have ample time to take a position AND talk about how ridiculous the other one is.
It won’t look like any political debate of your lifetime. More like a group job interview.
It might even be useful.