Trump is Right on Debates: The Media is Gaming the System, But We Need Better Solutions

Playing to his strengths, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested eliminating moderators from the debates to remove media bias.

The fact is that they’re gaming the system. I think that maybe we should just have no moderator. Let Hillary and I sit there and just debate — Donald Trump, CNBC ‘Squawk Box’ 9/12/2016

Trump certainly scored some political mileage among his followers that are convinced that the media is rigging the election against him, even though Trump stated that he respects this years moderators.

But the bigger issue here is the fact that there’s a fine line between debating and arguing — and most often it’s the moderator’s job to ensure that the debate flows, that personal attacks are limited, and that one candidate doesn’t ‘hog’ all of the time.

On one hand, Trump substantially benefited from the format of the Republican primary debates, where he was center stage each debate and often ‘controlled’ the debates through his various antics.

On the other, Trump is a terrific arguer. He can handle himself in a 1-on-1 brawl of wits, put-downs, and stamina. An all-out fight could win him some big points, especially since he’s trying to prove that he’s the ‘stronger’ candidate in the race.

And while there are a certain number of people who would love to watch ‘Celebrity Arguing’ on national television, the concept of debating issues is as old as the Republic itself — arguing about the issues rarely solves anything.

Arguing typically has the connotation of forcing the opponent to your position through will, coercion, or other means. Debating is the presentation of ideas and solutions — which might be diametrically opposed to each other, but they are both presented and then the viewers determine which plan of action is better.

Or at least that’s the way it should be.

Modern debating has become farcical and pointless — with the results seldom actually having an impact on the election.

A lot of this is simply the fact that Trump’s assertion is correct — the media is ‘gaming the system,’ trying to get the best ratings by setting up train wrecks, political gotchas, and openings for rowdy applauding or booing.

And the debate questions have become almost as bad as a beauty pageant, asking the contestants how they feel about subjects that they (and really no one else) really care about.

If we want to see real progress in the debates, they need to be sooner in the election cycle — shortly after the national conventions. Capitalize on the candidate’s bumps, but also keep from being so late in the cycle that everyone’s mind is made up.

But even more critical, we need salient, real-life topics being discussed. Even if they devoted an entire debate to only terrorism, immigration, health care, or any of the number of issues important to Americans — and then forced the candidates to really pin down their beliefs and plans on each subject.

It’s appalling in the modern format, where candidates spend 3-5 minutes on topics that will be critical for the next 4 years. Voters deserve more in-depth examination of our national issues.

No, we need stronger moderation in modern presidential debates. We need more exploration on the topics our children and grandchildren will face, largely because we refuse as a nation to address the problems today. And we need a participant selection process that is equitable, allowing outside voices to be heard.

We have enough political arguments in America right now; we need real debates. Because whoever wins the election is going to be held to their promises — and voters deserve to know how they are going to accomplish their goals.