Reschedule the Debates

Work in progress.

Photographer: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And so it is that Donald Trump has a point about the schedule proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The commission has scheduled two of the three debates on nights that feature prime-time National Football League games, which are among the most-watched events on television. Those games will compete directly with the debates, likely depressing viewership. While it’s easy to overstate the importance of debates, many voters who do not follow politics closely tune in to see the candidates side by side. By choosing Sunday and Monday nights, the commission has failed to serve the interest of voters who must make one of the world’s most consequential decisions.

The commission set the dates a year ago and now refuses to budge. It claims the schedule cannot be changed because preparations take too far long, television stations have already set their lineups, and fundraising could be affected. Please.

There is nothing sacred about the dates of the debates, and there is still plenty of time to adjust the schedule to avoid a conflict with nationally televised NFL games. The first debate is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26 -- nearly eight weeks away.  Many countries conduct entire presidential campaigns in that time frame. Surely it’s possible to move a debate from a Monday to a Tuesday. And the debate scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 9 (a three-day weekend for some) should also be pushed to Tuesday or Wednesday, to increase viewership.

The commission is a creation of the two major political parties and has traditionally been more concerned with the parties’ interests than voters’.  It ought to acknowledge its blunder and correct it.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.