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Closed or Open Presidential Debates: Which Will You Choose in 2016?

by Alex Gauthier, published

The 2016 presidential election is more than two years away, yet the Republican National Committee (RNC) is already setting the stage for the party's primary debates. In documents and emails reported by the Washington Times, RNC Chair Reince Priebus indicated that a committee had been formed to craft new, more exclusionary rules that would determine who could and couldn't participate in the 2016 primary debates.

Another organization, Open Debates 2016, is pursuing a different path to determine how candidates debate publicly and which ones participate. The Open Debates 2016 will rely on voter input to determine who will take the debate stage -- essentially debates by direct democracy.

Lead organizer for Open Debates, Zak Carter summarized the 'open debates' philosophy:

"[W]e want to restore something to those debates that we haven't been getting in America and that's a 'real' debate."

The RNC has started the process of rewriting the debate rules in light of the 2012 presidential primary season. For those who don't remember, it was marked by large swings in public support between more than a handful of candidates and resulted in more than a few political firestorms and gaffes.

Many will recall Texas Governor Rick Perry's "Oops" moment following his inability to list the third federal agency he'd abolish as president. Likewise, Herman Cain's economic plan-turned-viral-soundbite, 9-9-9, may have ended up selling more pizzas than solving America's economic problems.

The reported RNC proposal would change the debate rules so the organization could strip candidates of their earned delegates before and/or after they participate in an unsanctioned debate.

"Privately, I've spoken to more than a few candidates, and overwhelmingly they support this. Not even overwhelmingly -- unanimously," Priebus told POLITICO.

A plus for insider candidates, but candidates looking to engage voters outside of the establishment can be penalized for stepping out of the party line.

Come election season 2016, voters will be deciding more than just which candidate should be president, but also what kind of debate they want to see.

 Image: Marler Blog

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