Thank goodness that they don’t interview executives the way they do presidential candidates! Can you imagine applying for your job – standing next to 11 others vying for the same position – and being given 75 seconds to answer questions or 45 seconds to respond to others – all while on national television.
Primary debates are the ultimate balancing act. You need to stand out from your opponents, yet not too much because you’ll need those supporters in the general election. You need to distinguish yourself from the others who are members of the same party, presumably meaning they share the same essential core values even if you differ on how to enact them. You need more of a message than “beat the other guy” but aren’t really given any time to deliver it.
And all of this leads to soundbites and pithy statements about what you’ll do if elected – conveniently ignoring the fact that you’ll need Congressional support (or at least budget allocation) to get much of it done and glossing over that how those elections go could seriously impact your plans.
Eight million people (including me) thought it worthy enough to watch last Tuesday but I can’t say that it swayed my vote. What it did do was cause me to wonder what the point of the spectacle really is.
If you find yourself producing a program – any program, let alone one the magnitude of the primary debates – take more than a moment to pause and consider what you’re hoping to achieve. Then produce a format that allows for those objectives to be met. It’s debatable whether the debates accomplish the goal of sharing the values and differences of primary presidential candidates; in fact, I’d vote for a better way.