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Too many candidates for good debate

Republican presidential debates are challenging in terms of providing any insight into the thought processes of the candidates. With so many candidates participating, which may be good for democracy, the format ends up being more about punch lines than policy issues.

While considerably more time would be required by the networks broadcasting, it would be far better if the candidates were interviewed and questioned in sessions of two hours, limited to four candidates. All candidates would be included and the interviews scheduled over perhaps several weeks before completed.

If such a means was implemented, voters could expect to have far greater opportunity to examine the thought processes behind the campaign stump speech verbiage that has tended to drive the debates. And voters might more fully and fairly evaluate each candidate as a result of more in depth interviews and challenging questions focused on individual responses.

If such a format is not likely to occur, as it would now appear, then voters seem to be left with watching sniping at personalities on stage and candidates looking for a moment to plants insults or insights into the words of another. In short, it is like a food fight with cake more than a discussion about leading the nation.

The voters, and the candidates, deserve better.

For most of the debates to date there has been little, policy wise, to distinguish any candidate from any other candidate. Republicans have universally hewed to the right to reach primary voters in Iowa. Everyone is against all things Obama and Clinton, immigration, refugees, planned parenthood, gay marriage, the current economy, global warming, Obamacare, Federal Reserve policies and abortion. Every candidate is equally in favor of bellicose threats of bombing Syria harder and longer than anyone, gun rights, de-regulation of all things at all times, and support of bigger and bigger defense spending.

That is, all were voicing identical positions on issues until the most recent debate. In the Las Vegas debates, for the first time in the 2016 presidential primaries, there is a distinct difference on the topic of security/immigration. And, in presidential terms, it is an important debate with significant distinctions.

The core argument is about who can come to America as immigrants, refugees, and on visas, and how to we best protect Americans from terrorist acts while maintaining an open and free society? While the Trump argument of sealing the borders against refugees and expelling all Mexicans is not a serious offering, the Rubio and Cruz perspectives are serious divisions about an important current issue.

Voters should have the opportunity to hear the depth of these views debated in public without the distraction of meaningless zingers. Unfortunately, voters will likely, this year, at least, not have that opportunity.

Republicans should be commended for having so many candidates willing to undertake the challenging and difficult process to candidate for the highest office in the land. But the current process does all of these candidates a grave injustice by casting their appearances in ways that diminish the issues and enhance the extreme rhetoric.

The 2012 Republican primary season did similar damage to the candidates, placing the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, at a disadvantage entering the fall campaign as the republican nominee. 2016 will offer little improvement.

Let us hope that, instead of holding to the current course, in early 2016, the Republican Party backs away from this format, ends the overfilled stage in the debates, and finds a way to allow the candidates to tell their unique stories.

Elections are too important to squander.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.