Debate Jeopardy!

With the U.S. presidential election this year, we’ve already been “treated” to numerous debates between candidates for nomination. We’ll eventually be privy to debates between nominees. However, many are not satisfied with the quality of the debates themselves. Perhaps changes in the rules could help things a bit.


Here’s an idea: arrange things so that each candidate has a microphone, and can’t be heard without that microphone. Give the moderators an “on/off” switch. If the candidate exceeds the alloted time, the moderator switches off the microphone. Voila! No more candidates going on and on and on and on and …

Here’s another idea: instead of giving candidates a limited time to answer each question, given them a limited total microphone time. If the candidate uses the entire allotment to answer a single question, the remaining speaking time … for the rest of the night … will be zero.

Yet one more: treat this like an episode of “Jeopardy!” not by requiring them to put their answers in the form of a question, but by having a panel of judges on hand. The judges aren’t there to judge answers, they’re there to fact-check ’em. Whenever a candidate makes a statement which is demonstrably false, a buzzer goes off. A rather loud and grating buzzer.

Re the previous: when that buzzer goes off, a counter behind the candidate’s podium increases by 1. A rather large, prominent counter. As the evening progresses, viewers will be treated to a running total of the number of falsehoods the candidate has uttered.

Not only would such rules make for a higher quality of debate, they would provide a far greater opportunity for entertainment. In particular, the candidates would have an opportunity to “crash and burn” right before our eyes — something that should capture the attention of NASCAR fans accross the country.


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12 responses to “Debate Jeopardy!

  1. Greg Simpson

    So Ted will insist the fact check panel will include The Global Warming Policy Foundation, The Heartland Institute and Anthony Watts. Bernie will say no, and the debate will be off.

  2. Richard Mineer

    They are manipulated and tailored for RATINGS, no other purpose. ALL valid candidates must be heard!

  3. skeptictmac57

    Sounds like fun, and a format that few would ever agree to i;m afraid.
    Real time fact checking can be difficult, so you would almost need to know how the candidate would answer before the question is asked, and pre-fact check them.
    Many of them also exist in a world where ‘facts’ are relative and possibly don’t exist at all. Truthiness is what they trade in, and apparently that is just fine and dandy with their followers.

  4. Ralph Snyder

    The only real problem with this suggestion is the idea that American voters care about facts.

    You and I and everyone on this blog cares about facts. Most people do not. They’ve never been taught that discipline.

  5. I would love it, but the candidates would not. I almost think they try to out do each other on lying.

  6. How about some cash prizes ? Or better yet, cash penalties. Make candidates put their own money on the line. How much of Trumps own money will he bet that, if elected president, that wall will get built ?

    • I think the odds of a Trump presidency are actually pretty low. That’s the main reason why the Republican establishment loathes him, IMO–he’s taken their existential quandary–pandering to the extreme, versus representing the interests of the country–to a level that qualifies as a reductio ad absurdam.

  7. Whilst the idea is amusing, and I’m sure the blog entry is intended as a joke, the reality is that live debating is never going to be an area in which any coherent political policies are going to be discussed, let alone science.

    One of the primary rules of live debating is to make your opponent look bad. Bending the truth, Gish Galloping, implied insults, stereotyping, mockery, etc are all fair game. You want your opponent to be angry and flustered trying to counter your “points”. The more time they’re spending doing that, the less time they have to put their own agenda forward. Always control the agenda of the debate, that’s another primary rule.

    The only way the above can fail is if you get greedy and utter a falsehood that can be fact-checked quickly and you get called on it during the debate in a manner that is simple enough for the public to digest (a lengthy refutal will cause people to switch off). This doesn’t happen all that often.

    tl;dr Live debates are crap for deciding the worth of politicians.

  8. I do wish we would stop underestimating the opposition. Just finished Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. Naomi Oreskes is one who has never wavered from telling it like it is (h/t Maessen via aTTP):

  9. How about a tape delay to allow for better fact checking…and so that when a candidate says, “I did not say that!” a video could be played showing the candidate saying exactly that.