If the recent presidential and vice presidential debates have accomplished anything, they’ve proven that the American public continually struggles to interpret the candidates’s rhetoric. There have now been three debates, and the common thread is that specific and comprehensive answers are infrequent. The candidates have thus far quickly reverted to usual talking points on the growing problems that face America, such as Medicare and the war in Afghanistan. These political debates lack the substance that they should be providing to the American public. Debates aren’t efficiently structured and their format should be modified so candidates can discuss a variety of important issues more in depth.

The first two debates demonstrated how inconsequential they have become in recent years. In the first presidential debate, moderator Jim Lehrer failed to foster a structured debate. Both candidates exceeded time limits, failed to provide direct answers to questions and repeatedly spoke over Lehrer. While Martha Raddatz proved to be a better moderator, Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan failed to provide direct and complete answers to some questions.

Future debates could be improved by having fact-checking take place at the event. In the first presidential debate, President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney argued about whether or not the fiscal claims they’d made along the campaign trail were correct. This process took up a large portion of the debate and detracted from policy. If someone was there to verify the validity of the candidates’s claims, moderators could speed up the debate and actually discuss important issues that pertain to the campaign. This will force candidates to know the truth and allow voters to make informed decisions.

It also may be time to give moderators more authority in debates. In the vice presidential debate, the candidates were allowed to stray from the actual questions and move to their respective talking points, which has become an important feature of politics. If the candidates are allowed to simply talk over the moderator, the debate will have no structure and trickier issues can be avoided. After all, the whole point of a debate is to persuade the public as best you can with the time you’re alloted. If that element is eliminated, debates will become media events for the candidates as opposed to an opportunity to properly evaluate candidates.

The American public will choose its next president on Nov. 6. However, it’s unlikely that the political debates will provide people the information they need to make informed decisions about two very different views of America’s future. Going forward, if these changes are implemented, the presidential debates may again become relevant to the campaign cycle. In the end, the debates will be a much better resource for undecided voters.

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