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The presidential debate is going to be boring. Let's gamify it.
10.03.12

The presidential debate is going to be boring. Let's gamify it.

Let’s face it. The presidential debates are dull and outdated. They still follow the same tired Q&A format used in 1960 when a smarter and better-looking Jack Kennedy trounced Dick Nixon.

I came across a recent poll that found voters associated Mitt Romney with Monopoly, and Barack Obama with chess. Then it dawned on me: a few dice rolls could really spice things up. I couldn’t help but wonder how those games would go. Would President Obama finance low-income housing on Tennessee Avenue and privatize the B&O? Does Governor Romney even know how to move a rook?

As voters, we have a right to know. My motto is: less talk and more action. And by action, I mean games. The principles of gamification should be put to good use. The debates need to be more like Wheel of Fortune, and less like two guys talking. Here’s what I think:

1. The first order of business is to get rid of Jim Lehrer. Seriously, kick him out and lock the door behind him and his “facts”. My vision for the debates requires a moderator with the mentality of a used car dealer; a smooth-talking wheedler with a leprechaun’s grin. Pat Sajak would be perfect for this, except he’s a freakishly intense conservative. I need someone who can cajole the candidates into overstating their position -- into blurting out an answer to a question they haven’t a clue about. And when they’ve blown it, to smile and say Ouch!

2. Give the candidates buzzers. I’m picturing a Jeopardy setup here. Forget this nonsense about equal speaking time. Life, and especially life in the Oval Office, isn’t fair. The first candidate who buzzes in answers the question, and if they fail, the other one gets a turn. If they’re correct, let them pick the next category. For instance, President Obama might take Terrorists Killed for three hundred points. He could run the table in this category, in effect saying: À jeune chasseur, il faut un vieux chien. That, in my opinion, is what America wants to see in a candidate. (Except for French phrases, obviously.)

3. We’re in the internet age now. Even my 70-year-old father has a smartphone. It’s about time the debates go online. Let the internet vote on who is winning. If American Idol can do this, surely the US government can. After all, this is a democracy. Twitter should have a role in the discussion. When a candidate trends too far downward, cut his mike. He can always dance Gangnam Style to get his support back.

4. A big problem with debates is that the tough questions are seldom asked. To encourage the candidates to talk frankly about subjects they would otherwise shy away from, incentivize them. We know President Obama is likely to redirect a question about Guantanamo Bay, so make it worth seven hundred points. The same thing goes for Romney when it comes to offshore bank accounts in the Caymans, and latching an Irish setter to the roof of his family station wagon. Questions on climate change/global warming, fiscal management, etc. etc. are worth up to three hundred fifty points.

5. Abolish the closing statement. These blustering speeches are rarely anything more than a mess of cryptic promises, drivel about liberty, passive-aggressive insults, and brags and boasts. We’ve already heard over an hour of talking. Revitalize the economy, reenergize the base, yada yada. Ultimately, being President is about remaining cool under pressure, and looking good while doing it. What better way to showcase those talents than by a contest of tossing footballs through a hoop, as seen at the halftimes at football games at universities around the country? The presidential throwing arm is a hotly-debated topic.

6. At the end of the debate, the numbers are tallied, and a clear winner is decided on. If there is a tie, they flip on it.

The prize? Fifty electoral votes.