Political consultant Stuart Stevens, who served as Mitt Romney‘s chief strategist in 2012, says that primary debates have gotten out of hand. Specifically, he argues in The Daily Beast that TV networks have turned them into spectacles like NASCAR or the WWE, and are using them to boost profits, instead of doing them in the public interest.
There are many reasons to run for president. But being used to help generate profits and ratings for the news divisions of large multi-national corporations and to promote the careers of on air talent are pretty low on the list. At a certain point, this becomes terribly close to a news organization starting a fire to cover the fire.
How should it work? That’s easy. It should work like everything else in news and politics. The proper role of a news organization is to cover an event, not manufacture it and then cover it. We don’t have NBC-sponsored campaign rallies or CBS-sponsored bus tours, at least not yet. The current model for debates is not a news model, it’s a NASCAR model. Your corporate money buys the right to brand and promote a car and/or an event.
Instead, Stevens suggests a debate in the style of “Meet the Press,” without an audience, and with longer discussions. Oh yeah, the wrestling-esque graphics that served to lead-in to many of the debates (looking at you CNN) would be a thing of the past.
One question Stevens doesn’t answer: just how many people would want to watch a comparatively staid debate with no audience?