5 “New Rules” for Presidential Debates

1. Microphones must have auto-off. Five seconds after the allotted time for a candidate to answer a question, the volume on his or her mic goes to zero, automatically. For instance, if two minutes are allotted for an answer, the mic will go off at two minutes and 5 seconds. Candidates will have a count-down clock in front of them, as they do now. They’ll see their allotted time running down and will need discipline to make their points within the allotted time. If they can’t do it, they will be cut off.

2. Implement the “Interruption Deduction.” For every instance that a candidate interrupts his or her opponent, their own allotted time for rebuttal will be cut by one-third. If they’ve already spoken, their next speaking time will be reduced by one-third. Interruptions will be expensive, so they’d better be important.

3. No going “anecdotal.” Yes, we know either side can locate some small business owner somewhere that will lend a human face to some larger point that’s being made, but we also know that it is only anecdotal, not representative of anything, and purposefully self-serving. It’s just wasting valuable time that would otherwise be available to address the question. It’s an avoidance technique, not an answer. Rule it out.

4. Delay the entire debate broadcast by 3 minutes, to leave time for a non-partisan, Instant Fact Check on claims by debaters. In the 3 minutes between when debate statements are made and when they are broadcast, non-partisan teams of online fact checkers can determine the relative accuracy and/or truthfulness of debaters’ statements. By the time the audience starts watching, 3 minutes delayed, they have the benefit of seeing an on-screen indication of whether or not statements being made are factually correct. Each debater knows in advance that as they speak, the audience is being told the degree to which their words are truthful or not.

5. Tweet OFF. We’re here in the most important of circumstances, watching the finalists for the office of President of the United States go toe-to-toe on the debate stage. We’ve tuned in and now we’re trying to pay attention. We don’t need to hear Betsy in Little Rock tweet her own insipid recap of what the candidate just said, which we all heard for ourselves! There’s nothing anyone can be tweeting right now that is more important or valuable than what the candidates themselves are saying. So please, don’t distract us. Leave the screen alone. We all need to focus right now.