I just finished reading the original Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. Both were running for the Illinois Senate seat. Douglas was the incumbent. The debates half the time centered on the key issues of the day and half the time were used to attack the opponent as corrupt or dishonest.
Still, they discussed their different philosophies about slavery, the Dred Scott decision, the Missouri Compromise, the Wilmot Proviso, the Mexican War, the Fugitive Slave Act and the Nebraska question. As well as the original intention of the “founding fathers” regarding the spread of slavery. Heady issues of the times.
What was most fascinating, though, was the format. No “moderators”. No “gotcha” questions”. Just a timekeeper. Over the course of the seven debates the format was the same. One candidate was given a full hour to speak. His opponent was given one and a half hours for rebuttal. Then the first candidate was given half an hour to respond. Three hours total. Over the course of the debates Lincoln and Douglas each had ten and a half hours to explain their philosophies and positions on the great issues of the day.
I wonder what a Lincoln-Douglas debate, using today’s typical format and analysis, would look like. Here goes.
Moderator: Welcome to the first and only debate between “Honest Abe” Lincoln and the “Judge”, Stephen A Douglas. This debate is sponsored by the FauxNews/ABC/CBS/MSNBC/ESPN/Hollywood/Shopping Channel consortium. The format is as follows. Each candidate will get 30 seconds to answer a question, then his opponent will get a 30 second rebuttal. We hope to delve into the important Constitutional, social, economic, social and political issues of the day.
Moderator: First question to “Honest Abe”. Mr Lincoln, isn’t it true that you slept with a man for many years . Doesn’t this imply that you support gay marriage.
Lincoln: Well, while it may be true that I did sleep in the same bed as a fellow for a while, let me put that in context. At the time many young men without means rented cheap rooms at boardinghouses and shared accommodations as a matter of economic necessity. This in no way….(BUZZER)
Moderator: Your time is up. Now, to the “Judge”. Senator Douglas. What do you think of Mr Lincoln’s support for homosexuality and gay marriage.
Douglas: First, let me thank the press and the fine audience here. I see many supporters and some detractors. I hope you will give both Mr Lincoln and I the courtesy of listening carefully to our arguments and positions. Now, regarding Mr Lincoln and…(BUZZER).
Moderator: Your time is up. Next question for the “Judge”. Senator Douglas, Kim Kardashian has recently called both you and Mr Lincoln racists. What is your response?
Douglas: Well, I don’t know who this particular person is (LOUD GASPS from the audience) but I have always said that the United States was formed by white men and for white men. If that makes me a racist, so be it. Any white man today would hold the same opinion.Furthermore…(BUZZER)
Moderator: Abe. Your response?
Lincoln: I am afraid that you have me at a disadvantage, sir. Like my friend the Judge, I have no idea what news organization this Mr Kardashian works for (more LOUD GASPS from the audience, and chuckles of disbelief from the moderator). I have always held that the Negro is a human being, but is , of course, inferior to the white man in every way. However, let me add…(BUZZER).
Moderator: Well, there you have it, the only debate between Lincoln and Douglas . Fascinating stuff. Now , to our analysts, Huck and Sarah. Tell us who won?
Sarah: You betcha I will. First, old Abe. A catastrophe. I don’t know who did his makeup but those ugly lines and big nose? Give me a break. His suit was way too small. His looks like a big ape . Gangly and awkward. Definitely not going anywhere in politics. Judge Douglas. Well. Here cums da judge. Here comes da judge. Hahahaha. Dressed to a “T”. Great suit. Great tie. I would only suggest he wear lifts to make himself a little taller. A clear win for Senator Douglas in my book.
Moderator: And Huck, what is your analysis? Who won?
Huck: Well, I think the American people were the big losers today. Neither of these candidates is fit for high office. Lincoln sidestepped the gay rights issue. What is he hiding? And Douglas never did explain his ideas about white supremacy. What does he really believe? But the clincher was this. Neither candidate seemed to know who Kim Kardashian is? Really? You expect us to believe that? The most important political analyst-dancer-TV personality of modern times and neither of these candidates had a clue? Both are UNFIT for public office. Case closed.
Moderator: So you have it. An in depth look at the issues and candidates. Stick around for the next two hours as we air our special ” When Sasquatch Goes to the Mall”. And don’t forget to vote. It is your duty. I think voting this year is sometime in November…or is it October..? Google it.