Presidential Debates Should Serve Citizens and Democracy, Not Political Parties

Why We Should Replace the Commission on Presidential Debates with an Independent Non-partisan Body
presidential debates, debates presidential, obama, romney

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at 2012 CPD event

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) sounds like an official body, but in fact it is a private non-profit corporation owned and controlled entirely by Republican and Democratic party operatives. Most of  the CPD budget is provided by for-profit corporations and their lobbying groups. The CPD undermines the interests of Americans in many ways, including:

  1. It deliberately excludes viable independent and third party candidates from participating in even a single debate. (This exclusion is the opposite of the parties’ practice in their own primaries of including all serious candidates.)
  2. It creates restrictive formats with minimal follow-up, and pre-determined topic areas allow the candidates to memorize and recite soundbites to an excessive degree, diminishing substantive debate.
  3. CPD-chosen moderators ask questions that emphasize solely the differences between the two controlling parties and their candidates while ignoring critical issues on which they concur, or at least share disinterest in confronting. See our analysis of the 2000 Bush v Gore debates, for example.

With the 2016 general presidential election fast approaching, it’s time to renew the push for non-partisan debates overseen by a publicly accountable institution.

CPD Documents

Reporting on the Debates

Other Resources on the Debates

So what’s the alternative? A Citizens’ Debate Commission which employs criteria resembling that  proposed by the Appleseed Citizens’ Task Force on Fair Debates. New! See

Photo from barackobamadotcom  flickr page