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Instead Of Debates With Rigged Moderators, Trump Should Challenge Biden To Lincoln-Douglas Contests

Trump should challenge Biden to a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates this summer, before voters go to the polls.


The current presidential debate format is absurd. It’s time to return to 1858.

First, the nationally televised forums are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a supposedly non-partisan group tasked with platforming the major candidates every fall. Except the commission’s leadership in 2020 was made up entirely of Joe Biden supporters, and this year, the commission continues to make decisions favorable to the incumbent president.

Second, the debate calendar the commission unveiled continues to place debates after several states have already opened up voting for millions.

Third, the Republican nominee is expected to participate in a head-to-head matchup in yet another hostile environment. While no moderators have been announced for this year’s lineup, a look at previous years’ hosts gives no Republican reason to enter an unfair cage match. Moderators in 2020 included NBC’s Kristen Welker and former Fox News Host Chris Wallace (now at CNN), both of whom peddled the Russia collusion hoax for years. In fact, the second debate scheduled in 2020 was canceled after the moderator from C-SPAN publicly exposed himself as a partisan hack seeking advice on adversarial questions for Donald Trump just before the townhall showdown.

Despite the institutional advantages, President Biden, whom federal investigators determined earlier this year was far too senile to face felony indictments, is hesitating to engage with his top challenger for a one-on-one debate this fall. Instead, the White House is hinging its strategy on an aggressive lawfare campaign to imprison Biden’s chief political opponent before the November election deadline.

The president and his surrogates have already started to throw cold water on plans to debate his Republican predecessor come September. When asked last month whether he would commit to the traditional forum, Biden said, “It depends on [Trump’s] behavior.”

Biden’s campaign co-chair, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, was more explicit: “I wouldn’t encourage it,” he said.

Trump, on the other hand, has made clear the Republican nominee’s willingness to debate Biden “anytime, anywhere, anyplace.” But given that Biden is already foreshadowing a withdrawal from the traditional three debates this election cycle, Trump ought to go one step further, and challenge the White House incumbent to a series of debates free of outside influence.

In the 2012 Republican primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made challenging then-President Barack Obama to several Lincoln-Douglas-style debates a hallmark of his campaign. In the 1858 Senate election, Abraham Lincoln followed Sen. Stephen Douglas around Illinois and began delivering responses to the incumbent’s speeches.

Douglas eventually agreed to a series of seven debates with no moderators, giving voters a clear contrast between the two candidates. In 2011, Gingrich promised to do the same.

“The White House will be my scheduler, and wherever the president goes I will show up four hours later to respond to his speech,” Gingrich pledged, until Obama agreed to debate.

Trump should do the same, following Biden around until the incumbent president agrees to debate.

Returning to the format of 1858, with no moderator beyond a timekeeper, offers Trump a bold campaign strategy to expose Biden’s weaknesses while creating an escape from an almost surely rigged forum. Trump should begin following Biden now and through the summer, well before voters head to the polls this fall.

[RELATED: Don’t Count On A Trump-Biden Debate This Fall]

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