Debate or Q&A? Let's consider the question. David Colby, the president of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, who will moderate the debate, has made it clear that the debate will follow the League of Women Voters format. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters sponsored the presidential debates for a decade--in 1976 (Gerald Ford v. Jimmy Carter), 1980 (Carter v. Ronald Reagan), and 1984 (Reagan v. Walter Mondale)--but stopped doing it in 1987 reportedly because the major party candidates (George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis) wanted to dictate nearly every aspect of the debates.
According the League of Women Voters, questions and answers are the very definition of a debate. This from "Debate Watching 101" on the LWV website:
A debate is an event at which candidates who are running for an elected office meet face-to-face to answer questions that are asked of them. This gives the candidates a chance to state their views and to respond to their opponents’ statements. It gives viewers a chance to directly compare the candidates and their positions.The questions can be posed by a single moderator, a panel of journalists and experts, or by members of the audience. The last option, known as the "Town Hall debate," is the format that will be followed when Hamilton and Hallenbeck debate on October 14 and October 28.
The seven debates that took place in 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas are often thought of as setting the standard for political debate, so let's consider the format of those. They took place in seven different locations throughout Illinois--in seven of the nine Illinois Congressional Districts. The format for each debate was the same. One of the candidates would speak for an hour. (In four of the seven debates, Douglas went first.) The other candidate would speak for an hour and a half. Then the first candidate had thirty minutes to rebut what his opponent had said.
We should probably be grateful that the Hamilton-Hallenbeck debates will not be following the format of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
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