The Evolving Role of a Debate Moderator

Emphatic hand waving, constant interruption and deception: these are the defining characteristics of this years’ presidential debates between republican Donald Trump and democrat Hillary Clinton.inforgraphic

In a contest that is hyper-focused on two candidates, we, the viewers, tend to lose sight of those who are in control of the entire thing, the debate moderators.

These carefully selected men and women set the tone for the entire debate with the numerous effects asking certain questions can have.

In fact, the enormous influence moderators have on a debate must be considered to make sure each candidate gets a fair chance at representing themselves. One egregious debate performance could very well be the catalyst for the downfall of a candidate’s campaign.

Traditionally, debate moderators are thought of as having a one-sided job:  to ask good and fair questions while keeping the show running as smoothly as possible.

This year’s presidential debates have questioned this parochial definition by producing candidates that utter blatant lies on stage for millions of impressionable voters to hear.

The prevalent unethical behavior of the candidates begs the question: Should debate moderators fact check during the debate?

“We’ve seen a lot of cases where after the debates, a bunch of journalists figure out and list all the times the candidates lie. I feel like that should be done during the debate because people don’t often look for the facts after the debates,” junior Jay Creamer said.

More goes into the answer than a simple yes or no. Firstly, debate moderators are notoriously hesitant on jumping in to correct a false statement because of the criticism it garners from certain viewers.

Accusations of moderators taking over the debate or unfairly targeting one candidate are among some of the many attacks that are launched by those who think moderators should stay out of it.

However much criticism fact checking attracts may be a nuisance, but it is a necessary one. This issue is one that revolves around fundamental ethics.

Allowing a candidate to blatantly lie to millions of viewers is simply too dangerous for our country.

Not checking this fallacious behavior over fears of social media criticism is a deliberate choice to distort the vital information the public needs in order to make fact-based votes, promoting four to eight years of subsequent dissatisfaction in the White House.

Yes, the early moments of fact checking will promote complaints of unfair treatments from the candidates, but it more importantly does away with the precedent that it is okay to flip flop on issue after issue, while ignoring any opposing facts.

We live in a republican form of government, the foremost luxury that comes with this is the ability to make educated choices in electing a President that represents all the people of the country. An educated choice entails holding a candidate to their word, any deviation must be well accounted for.

Letting candidates lie to their country during debates allows our nation to fall into the hands of a president not unlike the numerous other corrupt and dishonest leaders that rule the countries we take pride in being superior to. It is important not to let this pride turn into purely sanctimonious behavior, it must be practiced and not only talked about.

Civics and Economics teacher, Cristofer Wiley, draws on a different reason for supporting fact checking in debates. He explained, “I do feel that a free press has a responsibility to inform the people, and that has been compromised in so many ways as soon as media becomes a commodity. We’ve lost that role, that idea of the press, but I do think it is a good idea to hold candidates to the scrutiny of the truth.”

Wiley’s point on “holding candidates to the scrutiny of the truth” may seem obvious and in a way it is. Common sense is all it takes to resolve this fact checking debate; do we want our potential president to lie to us, or tell the truth?

What sets a president apart from all the other average citizens is their propensity for clever and beneficial ideas that are compatible with our form of government. Always tell the truth, if we allow candidates to forget a lesson they should’ve learned in preschool,  then their once unaltered ideas are lost among a disorganized mess of manipulation.

Once they have lost their ideas, they have lost their honesty. This lowers the standards our nation holds our leaders to and as a result, it lowers our nation itself.

Fact checking during debates is a vital effort to prevent this from happening, and as none of us would like to witness the demise of our great country, it must become a central part of any presidential debate.

Photo from New York Times