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November 5, 2015

“DIG” EXCLUSIVE: The Debates are Broken. Here’s How I’d Fix Them

As someone with a girlfriend now (Tumblr celebrity KweenTrashWytch✨✨) I know how difficult it can be to compromise with a picky person. You might want to stay in and order General Tso’s for dinner when she wants for you to PayPal her $200 for sushi with her friends. So I can sympathize with the GOP debate organizers who have to contend with the demands of a dozen fussy candidates.

The campaigns are in open revolt against the debate process. They’re mad about everything from the moderators to the question formats to even the temperature in the auditoriums.

We can’t live without the Republican primary debates. They’re a time for everyone in the country to get together, crack a case of beers, and get snarking on Twitter. You can’t take this away from us. But putting the candidates in charge of the hallowed process would be letting the foxes guard the hen house. As an expert political analyst and someone who’s been watching primary debates since Mo Udall and Henry “Scoop” Jackson clashed in ’76 I humbly offer these recommendations to fix the debates once and for all:

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mandatory Costumes

Did you know Lindsey Graham is a Gulf War hero? Probably not, because he’s not allowed to wear his combat dress on stage. Let’s get rid of these fusty suits and pantsuits and make the candidates wear clothing that reflects their character. If you’re a veteran like Graham you should get to wear the hero’s uniform along with all your medals. A doctor like Ben Carson could wear his scrubs and stethoscope. A woke slay queen like Carly Fiorina could wear a tiara and glitter. And a collicky infant like Rand Paul should appear clad in nothing but a soiled diaper and duncecap.

Shake Up The Guest List

Let’s ditch the arbitrary poll requirements and move Lindsey Graham to the main debate stage already. He’s won too many weeks to remain stuck in the undercard debate, which we should eliminate entirely. Instead, to weed out candidates, force them to pay for their own podiums. This will exclude no-hopers like Bobby Jindal and wandering vagrants like John Kasich.

Make It A Roast

It’s no secret that The Dig loves the ribald humor of Comedy Central’s infamous roasts. I think the debates could benefit from aping this format.

Here’s my ideal seating arrangement: eight or so candidates stand in a half-circle around wasteoid creep Rand Paul, who will be forced to sit on a child’s stool in the center of the stage. For thirty minutes the candidates will get to hurl nonstop insults at this idiot while Rand struggles to not cry or soil his diaper (his performance would be graded based on this). After 30 minutes of ritual abuse Rand would be dragged off stage so the real candidates could discuss the issues. I like to think this could replace the Happy Hour debates.

If Rand Paul ever drops out or moves up from the loser tier (unlikely, I know!) he would be replaced by the field’s new whipping boy. This should give the candidates a little extra incentive to bring their “A game.”

Put The Debate On Apps

The most epic debate moments already go viral on Twitter and YouTube, so why not cut out the middleman and host the debate on apps? The candidates could “Snapchat” their opening statements, “Yik Yak” their rebuttals, and even appear via webcam on the popular camera app “Chaturbate.” That would get some “Reblogs” from Millennial voters!

Moderators Who Respect Boundaries

I share the candidates’ outrage over the moderators. We need pretty boys like Jake Tapper out. The job of moderator should be reserved for experienced reporters, head turners like Becky Quick, and gentlemen like Anderson Cooper. There’s no reason to have home wreckers up there.

Networks should also seek some fresh blood. Maybe get a superstar moderator such as former Senator Alan K. Simpson. Though of course, having a beloved figure like that can be distracting for the candidates. Their best bet is finding a 30-year veteran of political reporting, an alpha Beltway insider who, despite his mastery of the conventional wisdom, has yet to be asked to moderate a debate. I wonder where could they find such a person…

Shake Up The Questions!

Anyone watching these debates knows where the candidates sit on the issues. Sure, we get some thrilling moments, such as the dynamite Social Security means testing at the last GOP debate, but it’s mostly a formality. People really want to know the candidates. Rules should stipulate that there can only be 4 policy questions in which the candidate has 30 seconds to explain their position (anyone who needs more time simply isn’t fit to lead), then it’s straight into the fun.

Questions like “what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” or “what’s a funny thing that happened to you on the campaign trail” should dominate the night. Candidates should have unlimited time for these questions. It’s only fair to the electorate.

Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.