FLINT - I usually vote for Democrats, so maybe it's none of my business, but I don't understand why the Republicans are having so many presidential debates.
I think there have been 47 so far, although I've lost count. Everybody has. There are so many debates they've become the political equivalent of regular season games in the National Hockey League: They play them but they don't mean anything. Just about everybody makes the playoffs anyway.
No one seems very interested, least of all the electorate. And I don't say that because I graze on the libby side of the fence. Democrats do this sort of thing, too.
The problem with a long series of political debates is that after the first few everyone knows, more or less, what the candidates think. (It's called "the media." Not sure if you've noticed, but we have a lot of it these days.)
So the debates quickly become more about who screws up or who has the punchiest quip. It's boring. That's why everybody seized on poor Rick Perry's utterly normal memory lapse a few weeks ago. It was literally the only non-dull thing that happened that night.
The debates would be better if they eliminated people. (More on that later.) God knows they're not going to eliminate themselves.
Perry, for instance, knows he's toast, and yet he keeps going. Michele Bachmann, too. People thought she verged on scary intense before Newsweek ran that cover photo of her looking all bug-eyed and nuts under the headline "Queen of Rage." Once it hit, unfair or not, her chance ended, and yet she gamely shows up debate after debate.
Then there's Herman Cain. He's done better than anyone ever expected, but there's no way on God's green earth he's going to win now that allegations of sexual harassment - true or not - are out there. He knows that. Everybody in the Republican Party knows that. Why doesn't he quit?
Then you have Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman. I can't fathom what compels them to keep coming to the debates.
At the last one, Paul got 89 seconds to speak. That's a pretty clear message, Ron. Pretty soon they'll just turn off your microphone or place a cardboard cutout of you on stage.
It's probably not a bad idea, actually. These debates need something. Maybe a new format is in order. I suggest one used by "Project: Runway," which is a cable show my wife watches.
It's about the fashion industry and star model Heidi Klum as the host.
Each week, Heidi gives a half dozen or so fashion designers an impossible task - like, say, creating a wedding dress out of cream cheese - that has to be done in an impossibly small amount of time. They all fail, but the designer who fails the most spectacularly is told to leave, and usually does so in tears. (Heidi can be vicious for someone so pretty.)
That'd be perfect for these debates.
"Rick Perry, you couldn't remember your own talking points. Please leave the runway."
"Michele Bachmann, your eyes jiggle when you speak and it scares me, please go."
"And Newt Gingrich, well, you did fine tonight but let's face it, no one's ever going to elect a guy named Newt president. Auf Wiedersehen."
And so on. It may be an odd way to pick a nominee, but then so is letting people stick around even though everyone knows they're done like dinner.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.