Many on all sides of the political spectrum thought the first presidential debate was a dog’s breakfast.
In some ways it was. But in many ways it wasn’t enough. It is intrinsically good to have the leaders of the two major parties have at it. Nothing quite exposes the frailties of certain arguments, as we saw at the Pence-Harris debate, than aggressive cross examination. There is a way to do that on a regular basis, thus giving voters quite a look into the party leaders and their ability to publicly defend their policies. The British call it Question Time.
About once a week in the British House of Commons, you can see it most weeks at Sunday 9pm EST on C-SPAN, the two party leaders go at it hammer and tongs in public debate. The crucible benefits fast and sharp thinkers like Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson, a past and present leader of the British Conservative Party and Prime Minister. It was not kind to British left wing Labour Party leaders like Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. By the way, Kinnock is the guy Joe Biden has plagiarized from in the past. The thrust and parry of debate exposed Labour as slow on their feet and bereft of effective ideas. The exposure has led to thumping Conservative victories at the polls in their parliamentary system.
Can you imagine a weekly debate, on the floor of the U.S. House, between Donald Trump and Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi? Think how Trump would run roughshod over them.
Who in our past would have done well in an American Question Time? Nixon, Reagan, and Bill Clinton, for different reasons, would have done very well. Johnson, Carter, both Bushes, Obama, and Hillary Clinton would have fared badly, as their sense of personal entitlement would have rendered them awkwardly indignant at such a pointed and regular cross examination.
Then there would be the backbenchers of both parties who would act as cheering or booing sections. If you check out British Question Time on C-SPAN you’ll see that your typical Philadelphia or New York sports fans are put to wuss shame by the rambunctious heckling and jeers from a Question Time crowd of party politicians. It’s worse in other countries with a parliamentary system. In places like South Korea, Australia, and some African nations fist fights and brawls have broken out during parliamentary debates. How’d you like to see Dan Crenshaw or Jim Jordan take a swing at Adam Schiff? Uh huh. Now you’re getting it.
Politicians of all stripes wouldn’t like it because they’d have to do their homework and it would open them to intellectual scrutiny and accountability. But the public would love it, as it would bypass the press and let conflicting parties and ideologies go at it in the light of day. So like Elvis Costello and Harris tweed, this is a British import that could really grow popular in America. We should consider it.