More Policy Questions, Please

I certainly agree with Jonathan Bernstein that it would be nice for debate moderates (and, indeed, journalists in other contexts) to emulate “regular people” and ask more about policy and do fewer gotcha questions. I’m not normally the kind of person inclined to praise the simple homespun wisdom of the American people, but on this one the masses are right.

The underlying problem, I think, is that unlike most people political reporters tend to be interested in politics. It’s kind of like how hockey writers, unlike most people, are interested in hockey. The difference is that public policy is actually really important to people’s lives. So while ordinary people are hardly policy wonks insofar as they care about politics it’s because they have some concern about public policy. What I think debate moderates could most usefully do is raise some policy questions that are less obvious than the ones you get from the man on the street. We’ve five debates into this thing, and still nobody’s gotten a question about the eurozone crisis or the US-Taiwan-China relationship. It’s a big world out there, and most people don’t pay too much attention to it until disaster strikes and the domestic impact becomes obvious.