We expect presidential candidates to debate each other and, in many parts of the country, we expect congressional candidates to do the same. But, as far as I know, we have never had a major, prime-time debate between congressional leaders as a prelude to the midterm elections.
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter suggests we start having them now, by staging a debate between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and would-be Speaker John Boehner:
Don’t members of Congress debate all the time on the floor? Not really. Instead they give short speeches with no interaction, no questions, and almost no one listening. Pelosi-Boehner debates, by contrast, would become special cable (and even possibly network) events. Because each is despised by the other party, these debates would be major partisan moments in the best sense—a chance to test their contrasting ideas for governing unfiltered.
Speaker debates would do little or nothing to change the minds of Democrats and Republicans; the same is true of the presidential versions. But the election, while dependent in part on party turnout, will also hinge on the reaction of independent voters, who make up a third or more of the electorate. Do they think President Obama and the Democrats are passing too much legislation? Are they ready to go back to Republican priorities in Congress? These are the most central political questions of our time, and speaker debates would help the voters answer them.
I thought of a couple of counter-arguments, but Alter answered them all. Read his whole piece and see if you think the same.