Win a Debate
Convince the audience, especially the analysts, that your argument is better than the opposition’s – better in terms of principles, organization, facts, credibility, conclusion, style. A numerical rating system is the measurement tool for impartial evaluation.
Reason suffers when the rules don’t require debaters to compare apples with apples and adhere to time limits. Rules are for the benefit of the audience members who listen to learn.
Presidential Candidate Debate #1, 2016
Reason took a hit in the first presidential candidate debate 2016, with both parties at fault for disruptive scene-stealing tricks and talking over. Neither debater had enough strength to make converts. Both misbehaved.
- I would have killed the mike at the end of two minutes and given stern warnings on inappropriate behavior when the debaters ignored the rules.
- The moderator’s role is impartial traffic director, to structure discussion and move it along according to the rules. (It seems that the public thinks the moderator is the mommy or the boss.)
Performers in the Spectacle
Hillary Clinton, prepared with term-paper answers, boring speaker, careless about accuracy; relied, for some reason, on the childish “smirk tactic” that signals weakness. We – and she – saw Jeb Bush resort to it constantly when he could not dominate the Republican competition for the party’s nomination.
Donald Trump, not prepared with adequate answers, inarticulate speaker, careless about accuracy; this night memorable for snuffling constantly and advocating for a police state to replace principled democracy.
It’s unlikely that anyone remembers a word Hillary said. It’s unlikely that Trump supporters understood what he said. Her supporters claim she won. His claim that he won.
Audiences for the Spectacle
Granted, TV Q&A sessions aren’t strictly debates by any stretch of the imagination, but the same rules for clarity and organization should apply, if the audience is to get the information they need for deciding how to vote.
The trouble with the audiences for these debates is that their minds are closed and they come for cheap laughs. They don’t have standards, so they don’t demand integrity.
Shock of the Evening
Donald Trump advocated for a national police state by giving the police carte blanche to stop and frisk either a) anybody they damn well feel like menacing or b) any person of color that they feel like menacing.
The next president will probably inherit the privilege of filling vacancies in the Supreme Court.
The puny counter from Hillary Clinton was that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional in New York.
It’s unconstitutional, always was, everywhere in the United States of America, for police to accost citizens without probable cause. Hillary Clinton’s responsibility was to object vehemently that Trump’s view is incompatible with the Bill of Rights. She blew it.
How did the structure work?
It worked very well for any audience members who paid attention. We saw the stark reality of the two dishonorable buffoons that the major political parties had the gall to offer in place of their best and brightest candidates for the privilege of serving as President of the United States.
Mary Kay Colling is graphic artist with a Master’s degree in Communication and keen interest in rhetoric. She is a member of the Monroe County (NY) Democratic Committee.