Editor’s Column: Oct. 1, 2020

That was a debacle, not a debate

By NIKI TURNER | editor@ht1885.com

I try to avoid touching on national politics in this space, but what we witnessed on live television Tuesday between presidential candidates was, quite frankly, embarrassing. 

It resembled those awkward family dinners that devolve into a shouting match between your crotchety old uncle who still thinks racist jokes are funny and your mentally unstable grandpappy who shouts at everyone all the time; or a live version of the comment section on a social media post; or an old episode of the Jerry Springer show. 

Whatever it was, it was not a debate. It was a debacle.

Debates have rules of engagement for presenting opposing positions on a subject in a reasonable, rational forum. Those rules — civil discourse, intelligent arguments, constructive speeches, and abiding by time constraints, for example — are respected. Rude interruptions, personal attacks, name calling, finger pointing, eye rolling and dismissive gestures are not permitted. 

Even boxers follow more rules in the ring than we saw Tuesday. 

For future “debates,” I have some suggestions for improvement:

• Shock collars like you use on dogs that won’t stop barking. If candidates break the debate rules, they get zapped. Each additional violation increases the intensity of the zap. Since the American political system is now nothing more than reality TV and who has the best gimmick, shock collars would certainly provide more entertainment for viewers.  

• Bring in the Thunderdome from Mad Max. Forget these polite, reserved settings and silly stages and podiums. Let’s go for a cage match, complete with costumes. “Two men enter, one man leaves.” Let voters place bets on the outcome and use the funds for something productive, like school funding or senior housing or veterans programs. 

• Hire a terrifying moderator, not a soft spoken journalist. The moderator needs to strike fear into the debate participants. Maybe an IRS auditor? An ex-wife? Simon Cowell? Also, the moderator — and maybe the viewing audience — should have those buzzers from America’s Got Talent. Like I said, if we’re just doing reality TV gimmicks, let’s go all the way.