What If Presidential Debates Were Structured More like `The Price is Right’ and `Jeopardy’

The Presidential debates format is as stodgy as the two choices we are usually given to choose between. The debate format was last given a surge of new blood by way of introducing the town hall forum style way back in the early 1990s. And even that seemingly more free-flowing and less rigidly controlled format has quickly become predictable as just as empty of insight as the sight of two candidates standing at podiums and flooding the airwaves with vague answers to increasingly simplistic answers.

Not only is the Presidential debate construct hopelessly outdated, but it also provides an opportunity for questionable conclusions on the winner. In the first Presidential debate of the 2012 election, Mitt Romney received a substantial poll bounce as a result of being declared the clear winner. Romney was declared the clear winner despite the fact that the bulk of material he presented on his way to “winning” the debate was overflowing with misinformation, disinformation, flat-out lies or a 180-degree flip-flop on the positions on the issues that he was stating publicly in speeches just days before the debate.

Clearly the Presidential debate is not as useful as it might be. Not to mention being some of the most boring, monotonous and non-informational programming to be seen on television this side of the A&E network. Since Presidential debates became a regular and expected element of the election cycle from which no serious candidate dare think of shrinking, the face of television has changed substantially. A generation has now been raised on the concept that absolutely every aspect of American life can be boiled down to a competitive television program wrongly referred to as Reality TV.

Americans have become so conditioned to the Reality TV mythos that to elect our leader in any other way seems ludicrous. For one thing, if electing a President introduced a method of “debate” that quite clearly revealed not the minor ideological differences masquerading as enormous chasms of political philosophy , but instead a very solid foundation for determining the intelligence, insight and psychological state of mind of the candidates to lead the country, more people would become engaged.

That is why I propose that we scrap the current debate formats and institute a replacement with which the overwhelming majority of voters can relate. For starters, the candidates should be required to go on “The Price is Right.” How many people have watched “The Price is Right” and rolled their eyes or even shouted to the TV screen about the idiocy of some contestant who bids ridiculously over or under what a certain well known product costs? If you think that some guy who works in an office somewhere is an idiot because he can’t come within three dollars of knowing how much three cans of soup costs, then what would you think of a Presidential candidate who is equally oblivious?

The accusation of being out of touch with the common man has dogged Mitt Romney throughout the 2012 election. Let me tell you something: if you want to know just how out of touch he or Barack Obama really are with you and your economic issues, you won’t find out by some talking head telling you about his tax return. Let’s see if either candidate has the slightest idea how much the things you buy every day cost.

After determining how out of touch or how close to being in touch a candidate is on “The Price is Right” they come back for the second debate. Which has now become the game show “Jeopardy!” Now it’s time to see just how much in control of the facts these guys really are. The categories would all have relevance to issues of the election and the questions posed in the form of an answer would let us know just how “book smart” the guys we are election really are.

The final stage of debate would be an entirely new game show developed specifically for the Reality TV version of the Presidential debates. The first debate gives us insight into empathy with our own plight and the second debate ensures we don’t let another election wind up so close that an idiot like George W. Bush manages to sneak in the back door. The final debate would be constructed to show how the candidates would behave under pressure. The precise method for doing this I have decided to leave up to a panel of psychologists who are charged with creating a series of tests and scenarios to put the candidates through that reveal-to the greatest extent possible-just what type of mental state we are doing with here. I mean, c’mon: any number of jobs require that the applicant submit to psychological testing to ensure they are up to the job. You seriously want to suggest that a Presidential candidate should not be willing to submit to the same?