Undebatable Debating

Undebatable Debating

This may be boring, but it is important.

With the first presidential debate set for this Wednesday night, is it too late to suggest that the candidates actually discuss the issues? In recent such events, we have heard excessive innuendo, insults, irresponsibility, inaccuracies, and non-issues. While the media may play up sound bites from such moments as “interesting,” what truly matters is the kind of national leader each candidate would be and which federal policies she or he would promote.

At the very least, we all should watch the Republicans on stage Wednesday to see who best demonstrates leadership principles like understanding, peace, dignity, honesty, and integrity, and who has the best ideas for advancing bedrock American government principles like law and justice, freedom, limited government, and protecting the vulnerable.

How it Should Go

As an initial matter, the moderator’s questions and moderating should focus this first debate on the real issues. Impeachments past and future are not issues for today. The validity of the 2020 election is not a 2024 issue. A candidate’s race, gender, wealth, family, or religion should not be a political issue. And cocaine found in the White House certainly is not a central issue facing our country. Please do not ask about any of this.

Of course, what the moderator actually asks has had little effect on what the candidates in past “debates” have “answered.” Speechifying and ignoring hard questions has carried the day, and the moderator should try to prevent that.

Here is what we would like to see Wednesday night:

Question to first candidate: What do you see as the biggest problem facing America today, and what is your federal policy solution for it?

Answer: The biggest problem facing America today is keeping the federal government out of the way of its citizens and states. We need to reduce spending and taxes, reduce regulation of business, and reduce the role of government in our lives. Big government is the opposite of American principles of freedom and free enterprise.

Follow-up question: What would you say then to members of your party who are calling for laws banning abortion and transgender care, controlling local school policies, and rejecting anything they deem as “woke.” Would your focus on limited government keep the federal government out of cultural issues like that?

Answer: In addition to limited government, another crucial principle is protecting the vulnerable. Unborn babies are vulnerable, as are women – especially women who were raped, are minors, or whose lives are endangered by pregnancy – so abortion and choice policy cannot be absolute in either direction.  To protect the vulnerable and bring peace on this divisive national issue, I would propose a federal compromise allowing the vulnerable women I mentioned to obtain an abortion for a limited period of time, such as 15 weeks into the pregnancy, or longer if the woman’s survival is at risk. That is one social issue I would address.

Question (to a second candidate): In the past, some GOP presidential candidates have promised to appoint federal judges who are hostile to abortion and other liberal causes. Would you do that?

Answer: No. I would nominate the smartest, most unbiased, and most diligent judges I can find after studying and understanding their prior legal writings. A federal judge’s role is to apply the U.S. Constitution and the laws passed by Congress.

The moderator then could move on to a third candidate with another invitation to suggest “the most important issue” along with a proposed federal solution for that issue. Half way through the time scheduled for the night, if the above process has not produced discussion of issues like immigration, national defense, climate change, and preserving Social Security, the moderator should ask point blank what a candidate would try to do about those dilemmas.

In closing remarks, each candidate could be given an “open mic” (which shuts off after three minutes), to address policy positions taken by other candidates earlier, or to propose federal solutions to additional specific issues.

Helpful is What We Need

Debate along the lines suggested above would reveal to voters who really has the best answers for America’s problems. We do not need to know who is most adept at attacking an opponent, ducking an issue, or bragging about his or her own “American success story.”

A good political debate, like some political blog posts, might be considered boring, but hearing one this week would be both important and helpful.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

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