Reflecting on the Town Hall Format

This past Tuesday’s debate was everything a debate shouldn’t be. Town hall formats are supposed to foster a more casual, audience-orientated conversation. Instead, Tuesday’s conversation was hostile, off-topic, and uncomfortable.

 

The problem with the most recent debate was the candidates’ negligence to the audience and answering their questions.

 

After Obama had answered a question about immigration laws, Romney quickly interrupted and changed the subject.

 

“Let me mention something else the president said, it was a moment ago and I didn’t get a chance to, when he was describing Chinese investments and so forth.”

 

Obama was quick to call Governor Romney’s bluff when he spoke out, and so was Romney with his rebuttal.

 

 “Mr. President, I’m still speaking. Mr. President, let me finish. I’ve gotta continue,” Romney said.

 

The questions were all over the place, which forced the candidates to go back and get their talking points out because they never knew if they would get a question that allowed them to say their main points. This is the downfall of the town hall style. The candidates are constantly backtracking instead of moving forward and giving thoughtful, comprehensive answers. 

 

The bitter discourse between the two candidates was even addressed by Candy Crowley many times when she attempted to calm both men down.

 

“If I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you,” Crowley said.

 

Candy did not have an easy job that night and worked tirelessly to keep the two men on track.  

 

“Mr. President, let me move you on here please. Mr. President,” she said.

 

It was as if though Crowley was babysitting the two throughout the night with the amount of times she had to address their bad behavior.

 

You could feel the tension grow and get more heated as the debate went on. It was uncomfortable to see the two potential leaders of the free world bickering back and forth, disrespecting the moderator and the rules, and not giving their full attention to the people who matter, the voters.

 

It should not take constant moderator intervention to keep the candidates on topic. Questions that needed to be answered weren’t, and polls after the debate revealed that many voters couldn’t decide who had won.

 

The idea of a town-hall style debate is great in theory but does not encourage the type of conversation it should. Obama and Romney proved that this debate format makes it easier to be interrupted and easily distracted. Questions were not related to each other and the candidates were more interested in saying what they wanted to say versus sticking to the topic at hand.

 

This past Tuesday proved that town hall style debates do not produce the types of answers that Americans need to make their final decision.