8 Ways to Level Up
the Next Presidential Debates
by Kel Fabie
The first presidential debate has come and gone, and it’s good to know we’re taking baby steps towards finally elevating the level of discourse in this country with a debate that mostly focused on issues, but unfortunately was mostly made up of glad-handing and lovefests, only with the fewest of exceptions.
Unfortunately, the relentless emphasis on how much the topic trended on social media, the demographics involved and all the other self-aggrandization by the network running the debate actually distracted people from the reality that despite high levels of participation via using the hashtag, an overwhelming number of the comments revolved around insults and name-calling instead of actual political discourse.
Pictured: the only thing elevated in this discussion is blood pressure.
I’m not going to tell you who performed well or did not at this point. I have my opinions, but it’s more important for you to watch the debates for yourself with an open mind. There were some surprises, to say the least. What wasn’t a surprise, though, was that this could’ve been so much better. This was definitely a good first step, but we have a long way to go. Here are just 8 ways we could improve the lot of the next Presidential debates still to come.
8. Give the discussion more time.
Seriously? We can have #SaTamangPanahon run for three whole hours with no commercial breaks, but we can’t afford to give these debates that kind of time without bombarding it with political ads while we’re at it? Granted, these networks need to make money, but it should be safe to say that they’re already making money hand over fist as it is. What’s three hours of uninterrupted air time just to really tackle the issues properly?
7. Focus on divisive issues.
Everyone will want to alleviate poverty and solve things in Mindanao, but you know what they might not agree on? How to deal with China. RH Law. Gay marriage. Divorce. Let’s talk about important topics people don’t generally agree upon, but have our potential leaders duke it out so ideological lines are drawn. Call out these politicians if they flip-flop on these hot-button issues whenever it’s convenient for them.
6. Don’t randomize questions.
Randomizing questions might seem like a way to minimize bias, but it’s also a way to just put forward patronizing motherhood statements in place of actual policy discussion. Grace Poe is perceived to have come out on top because she seemed prepared for the widest range of questions. While that’s not a guarantee of anything, it also shows that the questions being randomized hardly really helps anyone engage in an actual debate.
In fact, if anything, given that we have only 5 candidates at this point, we should really just do a round robin format in answering all these questions, then give an opportunity for rebuttals afterwards. I, for one, wanted to hear what Duterte thought about the EDCA issue, but we never got that chance.
5. Provide closed captions or sign language interpreters.
This should go without saying when it comes to an issue as important as this.