Last week, millions of Americans tuned in to see their Presidential candidates eloquently explain specific remedies for the challenges that face our nation. Instead, we were treated to the ramblings of a compulsive liar and the emotionless, monotone responses of a thoroughly uninterested President. Disgusted viewers sent over 250,000 emails to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) demanding immediate change. In response, the CPD has brought in producer Matt Kunitz to “liven up” the debates. Kunitz is the executive producer of the reality game show Wipeout and has also produced The Real World and Fear Factor. According to CPD Chairman Michael McCurry, “Kunitz will be able to implement the changes Americans want to see in the debates.”
Kunitz and the CPD say that the new debate format will cover three main areas. First, they want to ensure the veracity of the candidates’ statements. According to Pulitzer Prize winning fact checker Politifact, in the 25 examined statements from the first debate, 19 were deemed to be “Mostly false”, “False” or “Half true”. Mitt Romney seemed to find it particularly difficult to speak the truth. A debate full of lies has no inherent value to the American people. The new debate format will demand 100% honesty by punishing candidates after any dishonest statement. Fact checkers from Politifact and the Washington Post will be present to judge the candidates. The candidates themselves will also be hooked up to a polygraph machine. When a candidate is caught in a lie, a neon “LIAR!” sign will shine behind him and he will be punished by one of several “Poli-Tricks” including moderate to severe electric shocks, being dunked in a tub of ice water and having a bucket of slime dumped on their heads. The more blatant the lie, the more uncomfortable the punishment.
The second change in the debate format is the number of candidates. The CPD, a non-profit organization, was founded by Republicans and Democrats in 1987. Until now, its policies have greatly favored the two parties. To participate, candidates must show that opinion polls have them with at least 15% of the popular vote. Of course, were they allowed to debate they might earn those numbers, however under CPD rules, candidates would never get the chance. The new format will open the debate to anyone who is both running for President and is on the ballot in at least 2 states. Current Presidential candidates, Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), Virgil Goode (Constitution) and Rocky Anderson (Justice) will now be able to share their perspective with the American people. While this has been highly unpopular with both the Republicans and Democrats it seems unconscionable in a free and democratic society to not give an equal platform to every candidate.
The third and final change will be the way in which the debates are moderated. The CPD will be replacing all current moderators with a panel of professors, scientists and economists. Candidates will be given hypothetical scenarios in the areas of the economy, the environment, domestic issues, natural disasters, foreign relations, and military actions. They will be asked to make on the spot decisions on how they would handle those situations. The panel will then vote on the best answer, thus determining a debate “winner”. During any response, should a candidate go over his or her allotted time, a mechanized boxing glove will shoot from their podium and pop them in the nose.
The new format has already succeeded in doing the impossible. Republicans and Democrats have actually agreed, on something; they both completely despise the new format. However, both parties feel forced to comply since a Gallup poll showed that 89% of Americans love the new format. While the CPD was unable to arrange the new debate in time for the Vice Presidential debate, it will be unveiled at the next Presidential debate on Tuesday, October 16 at Hofstra University.
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Unedited photograph by Eduardo Frei