Arsenio Hall

That wasn't a 'town hall' debate

That wasn't a 'town hall' debate

After watching Sunday’s 90-minute made-for-TV docu-drama, dripping with the venom of “House of Cards” and the guile of “UnREAL,” one thing is certain: We need to stop calling this format the “town hall” debate.

“Town hall” evokes the meetings used in Puritan New England to adjudicate matters of local governance. It’s meant to, of course. Both the typical 17th-century town meeting of, say, my hometown of Springfield, Mass., and the presidential-debate spectacle in St. Louis on Sunday night feature large audiences of unelected people from the area, simple townsfolk, who speak up as well as listen.

The careful...