Obama and Romney Should Debate Lincoln-Douglas-Style; Less Restricted Format Would Sharpen the Contrast

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

Obama and Romney Should Debate Lincoln-Douglas-Style; Less Restricted Format Would Sharpen the Contrast


Byline: Michael Taube, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The presidential and vice-presidential debates will be held in October. While political observers and enthusiasts look forward to this, many Americans view the debates as the bane of their existence.

Modern political debates rely heavily on scripted questions and short buzz clips designed to upset an opponent's demeanor. Language and prose are no longer important tools. It's simply a matter of who can generate the most meaningful attack for the evening news. That's why people switch the TV channel so often during presidential debates or don't watch them at all.

However, there's a ray of hope. Last week, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced a major change to the debate format. According to Washington Times reporter David Hill, three of its four debates this October will include time blocks of as long as 15 minutes during which candidates will debate a single topic. This is an exciting development because the new format hopefully will encourage each presidential candidate to provide well-thought-out answers to difficult questions. For the first time in a long time, intellectual discourse will replace buzz clips at a presidential debate.

That being said, I think President Obama and Mitt Romney should go one step further. My suggestion is to make the fourth presidential debate in the style of the famous series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. There would be no panelists, media questions, or YouTube video clips. Instead, the two participants would debate, in Douglas' words, for the purpose of discussing the leading political topics which now agitate the public mind.

Here's some background. In 1858, Lincoln and Douglas agreed to have seven debates while competing for an Illinois Senate seat. The first candidate spoke for an hour, the second candidate spoke for 11/2 hours, and the first candidate finished the session with a thirty-minute rebuttal. The two men alternated the task of speaking first, with Douglas, the incumbent, getting the honor in four debates.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates focused primarily on one important historical issue, slavery. Each man's speeches were topical, and often witty and brilliant. But as the historian Allen C. Guelzo correctly pointed out, We have been so content to take the Lincoln-Douglas debates as a purely historical event that we miss how much the great debates really are a defining moment in the development of a liberal democracy.

Douglas, the Democrat, favored the right of states to own slaves. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Obama and Romney Should Debate Lincoln-Douglas-Style; Less Restricted Format Would Sharpen the Contrast
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.