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The Presidential Candidate Debates Are a Circus, but a New Debate Format Can Fix That

The Presidential Candidate Debates Are a Circus, but a New Debate Format Can Fix That

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Our presidential debate moderators are stuck in an impossible position: Either they allow candidates to spin and not give real answers to questions, or, when they interrupt and insist on a genuine response, they're interpreted as having a personal agenda. The results are a politicized public, a suspicious pool of candidates, and the loss of a democratic forum. John Donvan, moderator of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debates, has proposed an alternate debate format to fix the current circus that are our presidential debates: an Oxford-style debate, or parliamentary debate, where a topic is set for the entire evening and candidates take a "for" or "against" position. This format keeps candidates from fearing "gotcha" questions, allows moderators to enter the debate without fear of reprisal, and preserves what is intended to be a uniquely democratic forum.