Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Modest Proposal For the Republican 2016 Clown Car Debate Format

There is a formal, media-led debate - by Fox (Not) News - scheduled for August 6 this year, and there was apparently some problems getting the lineup figured out.

It seems we are up to 16 (!) viable (?) candidates in the Republican lineup: that's a lot of clowns to pull out of one car to get onto one stage.

So Fox (Not) News decided on a rule: It will limit the prime debate to the top ten candidates polling the highest averaged from five national polls.  The Washington Post provides a current polling sample:

By this rule, Fox will give prime coverage to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry.

More seriously qualified candidates like Governors John Kasich and Bobby Jindal or Senators Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham will be set at the children's table and ignored until the dinner is over.  They have to sit there while Donald "Bankruptcy Court" Trump gets a seat at the big boy's table.

This seems a bit, you know, unfair to treat fellow Republicans like unwanted redheaded stepchildren...

...Now, if you're John Kasich's people, you have any number of arguments you can make. After all, you're only 0.2 percent below Perry in the average, and that's in a bunch of polls with margins of error north of 3 percent. In fact, you've done the same as Perry in every poll except the Quinnipiac one, where Perry got 3 percent to your 2 percent. That's the entire difference...
But should we include Donald Trump? His numbers come from appearances in just two polls, both from Fox News. Does doing well in two polls and not existing in three others count? By the time August rolls around, the field may be settled enough that this won't be as big a deal -- but it could be! With a field this big, pollsters spend a lot more money having their callers ask people to pick from a list of 20-odd names. But if you start leaving people out, that decides when and if they appear in a debate. And that's a big deal...

This is a vicious cycle: the candidates can only succeed if the media is willing to air their positions and show them what they bring to the issues.  But the media can't afford to showcase everyone equally, and the media (and the Party) have already established their favorites from within their insulated closed bubble.  A lot of the candidates polling high are only doing so because they've been mentioned in polls for so long and so often.  As a result a "serious" candidate can get ignored over an "unserious" candidate who just happens to be a friendly insider with the cable channel he/she shills for.

There has to be a fair and just method of establishing who gets to be on the big stage for the opening main debate.

I have a solution.  Bracket busting.

There are - officially and unofficially - sixteen Republican candidates for the 2016 Presidential run:
  1. Jeb Bush
  2. Scott Walker
  3. Marco Rubio
  4. Mike Huckabee
  5. Ted Cruz
  6. Rick Santorum
  7. Bobby Jindal
  8. John Kasich
  9. Ben Carson
  10. Rand Paul
  11. Chris Christie
  12. Rick Perry
  13. Lindsey Graham
  14. George Pataki
  15. Carly Fiorina
  16. Donald Trump
There may well be more candidates, and there are regional candidates - guys who filed within one state but not nationally - but let us be honest these are the major players on the field and it fits this proposal.

We will have Three Rounds of debates in one day.

First Round - Seeded Debate Candidate vs. Candidate

Starts in the morning one hour after a shared public breakfast by all candidates.  Hosting 40 minute debates with two candidates against each other, meaning eight debates.  Each question must take one minute to ask: each debater has three minutes to answer.  It should take 35 minutes (with 5 minutes allowed for overtime).  All debates will use the same questions, so each debate round has to be aired at the same time.  If we are doing this at a hotel with a large convention hall, separate meeting rooms of sufficient size are doable.  The network(s) showing the debates will have to determine ahead of time which seeded debates they'll take and share among them.

There will be five questions, verified by the Party leadership but not the candidates themselves.  An outside debate monitoring service - ToastMasters can sponsor! - will determine the questions do NOT favor one candidate over any others.  ToastMasters will also serve as referees to ensure there is no cheating, no physical contact outside of debate rules, and no improper use of blaming Obama or either Clinton as scapegoats (we are not about to let the debate slide early into fear-mongering).

There will be no bathroom breaks.

The debate lineups shall be based on a seeding method.  Number One debates Number Sixteen, Number Two debates Number Fifteen, etc.  The Five seed vs. Twelve seed should be awesome for an upset if this is anything like college basketball.

Determining the seed ranking shall be a formula derived from these key elements:
  • Previous/Current electoral experience
  • Level of electoral experience: Vice-President over Governor, Governor over Senator, Senator over Congressperson, Congressperson over non-elected Executive or Judicial, all that over State legislator/official, and lastly someone with no governmental experience at all.  In case of tie, current elective/nominated position ranks over former (meaning sitting Governor Scott Walker would rank over former Governor Jeb Bush, suck it Jeb)
  • Average polling rank determined by the top national polls

Using that as a formula, the First Round play-in seeding should look like this:
  1. Walker
  2. Jeb Bush
  3. Rubio (due to polling)
  4. Huckabee (ranks here due to polling over other current governors)  
  5. Christie
  6. Kasich 
  7. Graham (gets bonus points for the prolonged elective career)
  8. Jindal
  9. Perry
  10. Pataki
  11. Paul
  12. Cruz
  13. Santorum
  14. Carson
  15. Trump
  16. Fiorina
...Holy shit.  I might actually want to watch these matchups.

First Round Republican 2016 Debate
1. Walker
2. Bush
3. Rubio
4. Huckabee
5. Christie
6. Kasich
7. Graham
8. Jindal
16. Fiorina
15. Trump
14. Carson
13. Santorum
12. Cruz
11. Paul
10. Pataki
9. Perry

The winners of each debate will be determined by a scoring system and graded both by: a team of three randomly selected judges provided by Fox (Not) News, the National Debate and Speech Association (I would want Toast Masters to be impartial organizers), the National Review, and CSPAN; as well the viewing audience in-person using those remote dial-turner thingees.  The audience cannot include any persons working for any of the campaigns or the Republican Party itself: no cheating to either inflate a debater's score or sabotage the next rounds.

The eight winners will move on to:

Second Round - Open Stage Debate

This happens in the afternoon one hour after private lunches at any of the sponsored restaurants in the area.

This will be an open stage with eight podiums.  Placement at the podiums - radiating outward from the center - will be determined by drawing lots supervised by ToastMasters and one randomly selected worker from the convention center/hotel.  The worker's identity will be hidden by luchador mask.

The debate will have one candidate asking to the rest of the floor one question that should be no more than one minute to ask.  The question can be on any topic (including, yes, bashing Obama or both Clintons), as long as the debate monitors are comfortable the question does not violate common decency/community standards.  Each candidate must answer the question going along the right (their perspective) and cannot be interrupted.  Any other candidate interrupting during the answer will be removed from the floor and not allowed to return.  The questioner can reply to any request to clarify the question.  The first one to ask will be the candidate standing to the farthest right podium (their perspective), and will round to the candidate on the right to ask next (from the left back over to right).

Each answer should not take longer than three minutes to give.  Anyone going over the three-minute limit will received negative grading as determined by the clock: the longer he/she goes over, the more points deducted.  A light system at the judge's table (ToastMasters shall provide and maintain) will warn the candidates if they are close to the limit and when they go over.  This round should not take more than 3.5 hours (I think).

Water will be provided at the podiums.

There will be no bathroom breaks.

The scoring shall be done by five judges: one from Fox (Not) News, one from National Review, one from CSPAN, one from the NDSA, and one from the audiences at the previous round.  The judges shall be pulled from each group by drawing of lots overseen by ToastMasters and the staffer in the luchador mask.  The audience member will be pulled by door-prize ticket number, also overseen by ToastMasters and the luchador.

The judges shall score using standard grading methods for debates.

The top four grades shall move on to the next round.

Third Round - Thunderdome

Four candidates enter, one candidate leaves.

Various weapons shall be provided within the steel cage at various spots hanging above.  Their lethality shall be limited to ensure no bystanders can be killed.  Each candidate will be harnessed to bungee cords to allow them freedom of movement up and down as well as on the ground.  No weapons from outside the Thunderdome will be allowed inside.  All other debate rules should apply.

The Thunderdome will be scheduled before dinner, to reduce the risk of upset stomachs interfering with the round.  Also to keep the candidates hungry and focused.

There will be no bathroom breaks.

The four candidates fight to the death.  Time is open until finished.  Last one standing receives immediate medical attention to ensure that candidate survives his/her wounds.  The dynamics of a four-way fight would be interesting to watch.

This has the advantage of ensuring our next Republican candidate is not some chickenhawk cheerleading for kills on the sidelines: the next GOP bomb-em-all I'm-for-the-death-penalty-yeeha hawk will certainly have blood on his/her own hands.  This also helps weed out candidates from the next round of debates.

As long as all sixteen possible candidates sign off on this, I think this is a doable option.

(with many thanks to Jonathan Swift)

7 comments:

dinthebeast said...

Or you could have two professional actors, one playing a poor person, and the other playing a rich campaign donor, and make it into a contest to see how quickly and efficiently each candidate can steal everything from the poor person and give it to the campaign donor...

-Doug in Oakland

Paul Wartenberg said...

Doesn't work that way. The Republicans don't steal on a one-by-one basis, they just grab the whole pot.

Besides, mine will get higher ratings.

Sarah Glenn said...

I would love to see a Christie vs. Cruz match-up. The man is a Tellarite.

Paul Wartenberg said...

I have to admit my favorite match-ups would be Cruz-Christie, because that would be a huge 12v5 upset as Cruz is a more dedicated, aggressive debater and Christie would likely flame out in a spectacular bullying fashion. But I'd also tune in to watch Bush-Trump just to see two spoiled rich boys go at each other (with Trump likely being the rude one bringing up every nasty thing he can get away with), Huckabee-Santorum (two religious panderers going at it), and Kasich-Paul (the only one that looks like a genuine matchup of opposing philosophies)

Paul Wartenberg said...

I'm not the only one thinking up of the bracket idea: this is popping up on the Hot Air site http://hotair.com/archives/2015/05/19/modest-proposal-what-not-a-series-of-one-on-one-republican-presidential-debates/ and AMERICABlog http://americablog.com/2015/05/a-modest-proposal-for-fixing-the-republican-primary-debates.html

dinthebeast said...

You're not the only one at all... I read the idea of tournament style brackets on the Maddow Blog last week, I think. And you're right, your idea would get better ratings, maybe I just find the idea of Cruz and Christie in a cage with hatchets a little too appealing.

-Doug in Oakland

dinthebeast said...

I put a link to this post in a comment on Driftglass' blog, where he has a post suggesting that MSNBC host a simultaneous debate with all of the candidates that Roger Ailes excluded from the one on Fox...

-Doug in Oakland