How I’m Judging Tonight’s Debate

I'll be live-tweeting my thoughts, and this is how I'll judge the winner

I cannot wait till tonight’s debate! I’ll be live-tweeting it (follow me at and will declare a winner. If you know me well, you know I favor one candidate over the other. However, I have a way to declare a winner without bias. Let me explain how.


I’m owner of Monument Publishing, bestselling company of policy debate curriculum, and I have a paradigm for judging tonight’s debate.

Understand that there is a lot different between academic debate and what we’ll see tonight between the two candidates for the 2016 election. But in a certain way, they are exactly the same: there is a “judge’s paradigm” (a term used by high school debaters) from which we will judge.

Before I judge young people at debate tournaments, I tell them that I am a “flow judge,” meaning I flow the arguments on my flowpad and declare which side better kept to the arguments as that “flowed” through the round. I also hold true to the paradigm of Stock Issues, which is a popular framework of academic persuasion. Students then adapt to my paradigm, and I declare a winner without bias to whatever they’re debating.

Most will judge based on who they want to win, but to a trained mind there is a judge’s paradigm from which to declare a winner. If we’re really sharp, we can do this without bias.

I view the presidential debates through the lens of issues, perhaps best explained as an “issues” paradigm. I think of the famous Lincoln and Douglas debates, where both statesmen entered the stage pleading their case for the issues of the day. A very big issue of the day was how to handle slavery, particularly whether new territories of the then-expanding America be declared slave states or not. Lincoln lost that election, but he didn’t lose that issue. In fact, historians agree (i.e. “judge”) that Lincoln’s advocacy for slave-free territories pushed the issue further toward the abolition of slavery. The debates themselves helped Lincoln’s popularity and ultimately his candidacy for President of the United States, which came later.

So here’s the paradigm I’ll be “judging” tonight’s debate: Which candidate best articulates and persuades for the issues he or she believes?

This will make tonight’s debate a strong academic activity. Just like a judge of a high school debate is required to do, put aside your personal bias and analyze how the candidate persuaded the electorate. For every issue presented — the economy, terrorism, international affairs, etc. — ask yourself if each candidate adequately advocated for the side of the issue he or she believes. I get to judge the candidates on these issues. And so do you.

Tonight, September 24, is going to be big! There are four rounds of debate this election year. Some anticipate tonight to be the most widely viewed television show in history. It’s ironic that Monday Night Football—historically the highest rating program in the Autumn—is expected to take a big hit tonight. That’s because politics is a sport in America, and so is debate.

Follow me on Twitter as I live-tweet my thoughts. They will mostly lean toward the “issues paradigm,” and I’ll declare a winner in the end based on it. See you tonight!