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Why the Presidential Debates Will Suck Even Though They Don’t Have To

Why the Presidential Debates Will Suck Even Though They Don’t Have To

Robert Rosenkrantz and John Donvan wrote an op-ed in February suggesting the debates instead adopt the same format they have used more than a hundred times with leading public intellectuals and academics, government officials, and other thought leaders in their popular debate series Intelligence Squared.


These debates are done in the Oxford-style format, meaning that there is a resolution put before the debaters – say, “The United States should ban handguns,” and the debaters spend the entirety of their time debating that one resolution.

“We propose a miniseries of hourlong debates between the Democratic and Republican nominees, each on a single resolution crafted to expose their fundamental differences,” they wrote.


Although it may seem unorthodox in today’s frantic debate environment, this proposal actually has its roots in American history. The first of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates revolved entirely around the two candidates’ views on the future of slavery.


One could imagine similar, single-issue debates around a number of topics today: immigration reform, money in politics, the Middle East, and economic inequality.