Can “debates” with 6+ candidates work? Tonight’s did not, IMHO. And I suspect that, even with a less stupid and malicious questioner than Brian Williams, it would still have been frustrating.
The attempt to cover a lot of ground and give every candidate equal access means no candidate can do a good job of explaining any issue.
Herewith a proposed format and structure to address that.
- The debate will be limited to four topics, each of which is fairly broad. Example topics: a) Iraq / foreign policy; b) health care; c) environment; d) justice (gay rights / abortion / prosecutors).
- There will be three minute speaking slots and 30-second slots for each topic
- Each candidate will rank his/her choices for 3-minute topic slots
- Trying to accommodate candidate choices as closely as possible, the organizers will select four candidates for long answers and four for short answers for each topic
- The formal topic answers will thus take 14 minutes each. Allow 1 minute for the question itself, and the topics take one hour (no commercials)
- Add less-structured Q&A for a full 90 minutes
If candidate A wants to develop a platform around health care, this helps. If candidate B wants to focus on the war, this helps.