WE(fillintheblank)’s mission is to engage the youth in politics but also to provide the public with the tools to make an informed decision. Civic Engagement requires that people develop their sense of community while simultaneously increasing their knowledge, values, and their motivation to get engaged. If we were to wait until after the election took place and host a debate before the runoff, we run the risk of missing out on a debate because there might not be a runoff if one of the candidates has the majority of the vote. This would mean that we have failed to engage with the community and have failed in educating the public before they make a decision. The latter part would still hold true even if a runoff occurred, if there’s a runoff between two candidates and we hold a the debate for those two, we would have still let the public make an uneducated decision. This is why we believe that having an event before the election is crucial so as to have a more educated public.
The standard debate format, we believe, is not an effective way to get substance out of the candidates. Instead, the traditional format of debating allows a candidate to make attacking remarks or simply get out campaign points without thoroughly addressing them. As an organization dedicated to engaging the community, we believe we need a format which allows the candidates to interact with each other, but also go into depth defending their own stances against other candidates. This is where the new format comes into play.
The new format shifts the focus from one candidates to all candidates by having the moderators ask a question and then allowing for a conversation to develop between the candidates on stage. Throughout the discussion, the moderator will act as a referee, which would include the responsibilities of making sure the candidates are not attacking each other, making sure the conversation is productive, and ensuring that not one candidate is dominating the discussion. After a certain time frame, the moderator will then ask a second question, and the whole process is repeated again.
We intend to have a focus group comprised of students and community members present at the debate. After each Socratic Dialogue in the first half of the debate, each person in the focus group will rate the candidate based on their performance during the socratic. At the end of the socratic portion of the debate, we will tally all results, from which we will produce a pool of three or four candidates. These candidates will then advance to the second round of the debate. This way, we are giving each candidate equal speaking time, but also a potential to advance. By limiting the candidates, we ensure that the conversation is productive and is not bogged down by too many candidates sharing the stage.