Parties should debate each other, not selves

By Chelle Delaney: QCS associate publisher

Yes, it’s early, but shouldn’t Democrats start mixing it up with Republicans?

That’s what was just suggested in a recent piece in the New York Times.

What we’ve been getting is a series of so-called “debates” that pit Republicans against Republicans and Democrats against Democrats.

How long do we have to wait before the candidates of different persuasions start debating with each other? You know, Democrats versus Republicans.

All the current “debates” are doing is exhibiting the dissension within the parties. Why can’t the candidates for both parties face each other?

Debates are a good thing. Presidential debates used to be sponsored by League of Women Voters, but in 1987 the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established “to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.”

The commission, which is nonpartisan and nonprofit, has sponsored all the presidential debates between 1988 and 2004.

Of course, most of those debates (but not all) were held after the primaries and conventions had decided who each party’s candidates would be.

But if you look at the CPD Web site — www.debates.org — you’ll get a great sense of what previous presidential and vice presidential debates were like — and what current debates could be like.

The Commission on Public Debates’ Web site not only gives you details on the above debates, you can get transcripts of what the debaters said.

And maybe what was said in years past might be more informative than what is being said today … in these one-party debates.

Author-reporter for U.S. News & World Report Michael Barone reminds us that, in 1987, Tom Brokaw of NBC News brought us a televised debate between six Republican and six Democratic presidential candidates. That’s right, the presidential candidates for both parties had at it with one another.

And people watched. That 1987 debate between the candidates of both parties topped 18 million viewers.

Our current debates? Their audiences range from less than a million to just a little more than 3 million. What about the debates in years gone by? The Commission on Presidential Debates has the figures for the debates it sponsored.

Each of the four 1960 debates between President (R) Richard M. Nixon and Senator (D) John F. Kennedy drew more than 60 million viewers.

And in 1980 when President (D) Jimmy Carter debated with the former Governor of California (R) Ronald Reagan, the audience was, according to Nielsen Media Research, 80.6 million.

By the way, the sponsor of all these debates was the Commission on Presidential Debates.

These audience numbers should show the value of real two-party debates.

Such debates would bring candidates of both parties to face one another and debate with one another. And should draw a larger audience — Republicans and Democrats and independents.

Such debates would give the voters/viewers of each party an opportunity to hear the arguments of the other party. And would give independent voters a chance to hear both sides.

With apologies to Barone, “Is anyone out there willing to step forward and sponsor such a debate?”

Chelle Delaney is associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached by calling 461-1952 or by emailing: chelle_delaney@link.freedom.com