Lori Falce: Presidential debates are beauty pageants
We are about to play the next round of everyone’s favorite game show, “Who Wants to Be President?”
And the answer in the Democratic Party continues to be the same. Everyone.
Yes, we are a year out from the 2020 convention, but it would be great if the CNN debates in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday could give us more candidates’ ideas rather than posturing and jockeying for position. The point isn’t the spectacle. It’s taking a deep bench of possibilities and winnowing it down. And that’s hard since so many of them sound alike.
The debates are a bit of a beauty pageant. And so far, they have been a little too Miss Universe when what we need is more Miss America 2.0 — a contest trying to retain its popularity while establishing itself as more about scholarships than walking in high heels.
Maybe the MSNBC/NBC/Telemundo version was a glitzy prime-time game show format that will change, but with CNN’s dramatic drawing of names for the different nights — which seemed akin to the announcement of the Emmy nominations — that seems unlikely.
So if we’re headed for a pageant, let’s take a piece of that time-honored format that could really be beneficial. No, we don’t need to see Bernie Sanders in swimwear or Marianne Williamson doing interpretive dance. A political campaign is already a lot of walking while waving, so they have that part down.
Let’s get to the isolation booth.
You know, the glass box where the contestants — or rather, candidates — wait to come out one by one to answer the same question.
They all get the same chance. They answer on their own terms. They don’t answer by getting off topic about what someone else said. There’s no glancing around to see who else is raising a hand.
If it’s good enough for Miss Mississippi and Miss Texas to focus on answers about world peace, I think it can work for senators and governors talking about immigration and health care.
Maybe some think we need the spectacle of 20 people arguing and springing gotcha moments on each other to energize interest, but I think there is room to appeal to people on more than a WWE level. For seven weeks, America sat down together to watch James Holzhauer systematically march through 33 episodes of “Jeopardy!” We didn’t know all the answers, but we enjoyed seeing someone show that he did.
So let’s move this along with real questions, real answers and a way to cut down to a manageable group of semifinalists. Because that’s when we win the prize: a real debate.
Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected].