Las Vegas GOP Debate Might Be Too Much, Too Soon

Tonight, the viewing public will once again be spoon-fed an over-produced reality show with intriguing characters and repetitive story lines. No, I am not talking about Survivor or Hell’s Kitchen, but rather the GOP debate in Las Vegas.

Tonight’s debate is the next in a long line of debates that have already played out or are set to play out early next year through to the election in November. While debates offer the casual American the best opportunity to judge candidates and pick a favorite, orchestrating a debate every other week only dilutes the process as candidates shuffle from debate to debate with the same talking points. Allowing for ample time between debates allows for the candidates to diversify talking points while also giving the viewing public time to digest the information from the previous debate.

Sure, these debates have provided great theater — i.e. Jon Huntsman thinking Herman Cain’s economic plan was the "price of a pizza" and just about anything Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) says — and according to the New York Times, have trounced 2008’s primary debates in terms of ratings. But remember, in 2008 there were two primaries vying for viewership, essentially splitting the viewership. 

Since we last saw the Republican candidates share the stage in New Hampshire last week not much has changed. Texas Governor Rick Perry made the biggest news by unveiling his “revolutionary” economic plan, which basically calls for more drilling for oil and gas. The plan, according to Perry, will create upwards of 1.2 million jobs. This unveiling gives Perry a fighting chance against Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan and Mitt Romney’s 59-point economic recovery plan. However, unfortunately for Perry, he released the plan a week late, missing out on the opportunity to put his plan against Cain and Romney’s plans during last week's debate, which was centered on the economy.

Tuesday night’s debate offers a change of pace for viewers and the candidates, as those in the audience (all from the Western region of the U.S.) will ask questions directly to the candidates. But because of the quick turnaround, candidates have had little time to change up the strategy from the last debate. Talking points will be rehashed over and over as we are likely to hear Cain spew 9-9-9 almost a hundred times, Romney harp on his private sector experience, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) blame “Obamacare” for all of the nation’s problems, and a zinger or two from a fringe candidate.  

There are so many questions that arise from debates, and by staging them back-to-back-to-back, the American public and the candidates are not given sufficient time to answer them. There is little build-up to the debates; rather, news organizations feel it necessary to shove the political banter down the throats of the American people before they have had sufficient time to chew. Debates are a great and necessary instrument of our democracy, but six in a little more than a month (Sept. 5 – Oct. 18) seems a bit excessive.

What new and exciting information is the public going to learn by staging debates almost every week?

Network executives run the risk of diluting the process come November. In the GOP primary alone there are 12 scheduled debates to take place from Tuesday night through March 19, then add on the general election debates and the number comes close to 20. Sooner or later the nostalgia of good theater will wear off and those people who are not enthralled by politics will quickly become disinterested. Debates are supposed to be a place where candidates can go head to head with their peers in a meaningful and thoughtful discussion, but by forcing them to partake in a debate each week, network executives are creating a product that encompasses candidates spewing out pre-planned mindless talking points.

The debates should be spaced out generously to allow for more things to happen on the campaign trail, for Americans to get more informed (as opposed to listening to the endless talking points spewed out during the debates), and for candidates to tidy up their rhetoric so that they are not harping on the same annoying points — I am looking at you Herman Cain. 

Photo Credit: IowaPolitics.com