It’s time to change the debates

By Tyrone Barrozo, Columnist

There has been recent news of an online petition to let comedian, UFC commentator, and elk meat enthusiast Joe Rogan moderate the 2020 presidential debate that has received more than 200,000 signatures. With more than 20 Democratic candidates still in the running and on the campaign trail, televised bickering and 30-second platform pitches are louder and more annoying than they’ve ever been—and that’s not including every time the media airs the president’s “coverage” of each debate the following morning. 

The change.org petition has received a fair amount of media coverage after one of Rogan’s latest podcast interviews with prominent democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Following the release of the episode, the interview quickly became one of Twitter’s most talked about subjects, mostly garnering praise for the casual yet candid style of discussion on relevant political issues such as universal health care, marijuana, and gun laws. On YouTube alone, the interview has more than 8 million views. 

Despite the moderate success, it is important to note that each of the televised debates this year still averages about 19 million views [when combined with streaming views]. That may sound decent, but it should be noted that the season one finale of The Bachelorette, back in 2003, received more than 20 million. Needless to say, these debates—their schedule and their format—are on their last legs. Something needs to be done to update the methodology to something as pedantic as persuading an entire country to pick someone to represent their society for the next four to eight years. 

In full disclosure, even if the petition continues to receive 1 million signatures, there’s no way in hell that MSNBC, CNN, or ABC would allow Rogan to become a moderator. Then again, a fair amount of people said that Donald Trump would never be president and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wants to run for the 2020 election so take these words with a grain of salt. 

So, here’s a question: Why not let Rogan moderate? 

Rogan is already a notable and respected name who has hosted interviews with politicians, pundits, economists, scientists, and other popular figures from virtually every walk of life and provided a compelling alternative long-form media format for a digital audience. As a result of this, Rogan has gained a significant audience across the political spectrum thanks to his interviewing style. 

Compare Rogan’s hour long one-on-one with Sanders to the 2019 Democratic primary debates where each exchange between candidates remain expectedly raucous and combative—and marketed heavily as an aggressive competition (see any news promo from any of the main cable news networks talking about the Biden-Harris feud) at the expense of political integrity and general professionalism. There simply isn’t enough time for 24 candidates to properly communicate and explain to an average American 

citizen about all of the fine details of their platform. Take up and coming candidate Andrew Yang for example, who’s received a rather welcoming response from netizens thanks to his signature universal basic income platform, and been a former guest on Rogan’s podcast. According to a stopwatch analysis conducted by The Washington Post, out of the 135 minute-long debate (excluding commercials), Yang spoke for less than 10 minutes. Needless to say, explaining any four-year plan in less than 10 minutes leaves a lot to the imagination. Luckily, prior to the debate, Yang appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and, after exchanging pleasantries with Rogan, was immediately asked about universal basic income which then led to tangential topics such as the effects of job automation and “free” higher education. In total, their interview almost approached the two hour mark—two hours of productive and compelling discussion relevant and absent from the current political environment—and it’s all readily accessible to the public in an easily digestible format. 

So, why not let a comedian moderate a presidential debate? After almost four years of daily Trump-related chaos, what’s the worst that could happen?

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