There is no doubt that the networks have had a heyday turning the 2016 presidential primary debates into a sideshow, with at times all of the major contenders playing the role of the chief clown.
So great the sideshow that even President Obama has joined in mocking the utter ridiculousness of the candidates' demands -- he has nothing to lose, why not?
And while Americans have been more captivated by this for its entertainment value, the issues are still not being debated or discussed.
Even worse, how can a candidate presume to hold the process hostage by demanding appearance fees?
Likewise, who really cares how much Wall Street will love the next Democratic president, continued interested in the well-trodden Benghazi debacle, or opinions on Donald Trump's latest antic (all from the latest Democratic debate)?
The bottom line is that the real messages are happening at the campaign rallies--where the candidates have the time to actually present their case to the American people. And it's not like the other candidates don't have the ability to immediately respond--call it almost a non-live, yet still interactive debate.
This current primary sideshow is likely to extend into the general election, while pared down to only two candidates at a time--the media has garnered a taste for the sideshow atmosphere and is sure to deliver.
So, how about either or both sides just choose not to show up to the debates?
They can speak about the issues to their ilk, as well as the essential swing and independent votes, all while sidestepping the landmines, gotcha moments, and idiotic, completely off-topic questions set up by a media wanting nothing less than a circus atmosphere.
This has happened before in modern politics, perhaps it's time again.In 1964, the debate between Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and Barry Goldwater's rejection to the legacy of the New Deal could have been one of the greatest debates in presidential history--but it never happened.
While Goldwater was cremated at the polls (486-52 electoral votes), his message is often credited as the inspiration of the modern conservative movement--fully embraced by Ronald Reagan, who equally stomped his opponent in the electoral college (489-49).
The point is, the message got out--so powerfully that even with Johnson's overwhelming victory, it could not stop a fundamental split in the Democratic Party that gave Richard Nixon an easy route to victory in the Electoral College (301-191-46).
Eventually debates returned to the presidential elections in 1976, but not without consequences. Gerald Ford was never able to recover from a guffaw during the debates about the Soviet sphere of influence--and it was relentlessly used against him.
What about Clint Eastwood's 'empty chair?'
Clint Eastwood's surprising, comical routine at the 2012 Republican National Convention has definitely set a precedent of it being a cowardly act to refuse to engage or leave an 'empty chair.'
But his own speech pointed out the absolute ridiculousness of what is happening in the modern debates--talking heads that aren't actually listening, engaging, or debating each other.
Americans should be voting on their favorite candidate's background, experience, and capabilities--not on whether or not they can be victimized by two hours worth of pre-planned pitfalls and guffaws.
Americans should be interested enough in the process to actually follow the campaigns--of both parties. Because they should see how the evolution takes place each election cycle of pandering to the base, then trying to reach out to the middle.
The opinions of the critical swing votes and independents shouldn't be formed by a sideshow. We can only hope that we can have candidates strong enough to want to win on their overall performance.