After watching the presidential and vice presidential candidates’ debates, my family and I were discussing how they can be improved. Some were in favor of muting the candidates immediately upon the conclusion of their allotted time, or having the moderator mute the candidate if they strayed from the question that was asked. I can understand the appeal, but I don’t know that I’d trust the moderators to make the right call in-the-moment, and I think there might be some value in letting a candidate finish a thought or make an observation that’s of high importance to their campaign. So let’s make them do it themselves. Give each of them a total of 45 minutes of “live mike” time during the night that operates like a chess clock. Whenever their mike is on, the clock is counting down, and when they’re out, they’re done. You want to spend 10 minutes talking about virus response? Go for it. But then you’ll have less time to respond to your opponent’s ideas and criticisms later. It’s self-enforcing, so it’s not up to the moderator to prevent the candidate from speaking too long, their mike just goes dead once they’re out of time. It might also introduce even more clarity in the differences in priorities between the candidates (not that that was an issue this time around). Imagine seeing one candidate spend 5 minutes talking about health care and then the other only spends 60 seconds on it. The gamesmanship might even be a little more exciting- when a candidate is down to their last two minutes of the whole night, how do they use it?
I welcome thoughts and comments!