My Thoughts on the Debates

3 10 2008

I love this political season we are in. I don’t know if it is a product of getting older and caring about the society that I am becoming increasingly a part of and will raise my kids in, maybe its because it changes things up from the nonsense that is typically on TV, or maybe its just a side effect of my silly obsession with the West Wing. Whatever the case may be, I love it. I have watched both of the debates thus far (the Presidential last week and the Veep last night) and much to my disappoint they have just not been that great.

I have been wondering what it is that is accomplished when you have an event that is basically nothing more than a pageant of rehearsed stump statements that really don’t accomplish much more than to reinforce the feelings of those who have already settled on a candidate. I firmly believe that next to no one was persuaded in a different direction than where they already were due to the performance of any of the four candidates over the last two weeks. My questions is one that has been posed, yep you guessed it, on the West Wing. In the 7th season during the debate between Congressman Matthew Santos (a young’ish minority member of Congress whom many questioned his experience) and Senator Arnold Vinick (an old member of the Senate who was a rouge in the Republican party of whom there were many questions about his religious beliefs) they only get a couple of questions into the debate before ‘the bus gets pulled over’. Congressman asks the Senator directly would he be willing to suspend the rules (90 second response followed by 60 second follow up followed by 60 second rebuttal, etc…) in favor of a real substantial debate where they are able to speak directly to one another and actually approach the issues and speak realistically not in rehearsed little snippets.

I want to see a real debate. I want to see people answer questions. I want to see someone forced to prove that they can think critically about issues and can show why they should be elected. Anyone can memorize statistics, anyone can rehearse how to talkabout Iraq without sounding definitive about it, anyone can do what has been done the last two weeks.

I want a real debate.

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7 responses

3 10 2008
Eleanor

This is why I just don’t bother with them anymore, Nick.

They have devolved into nothing more than opportunities for adherents of both sides to take delight in occasional and unavoidable gaffes of the opponent, to mock the way a person talks or looks (and if somebody wants to make fun of Palin’s pronunciation of “nuclear” then they need to be brave enough to make fun of my husband, too), and to generally provide nothing more than unpaid political ads for all the candidates.

When I was your age I was very much interested in the process as well. The older I get, the less true that is for me. The things that stir our emotions shift with the years, I suppose.

3 10 2008
Luke

just as a note, i believe Jackie HAS poked fun at Dad for his pronunciation. she’s the only who could get away with it, though.

anywho, although we don’t feel these debates are producing much of substance to us, there are still a whole bunch of folks out there who are still “undecided.”

i was listening to NPR this afternoon on the way home and they had sat in on a group of AARP members somewhere. the group that had convened were decidedly undecided pre-debate, but they interviewed the group afterwards, and while none of them could be pushed to declare a winner post-show, everyone interviewed certainly had an opinion about what they came away with.

the face of the Debate (capital D) has changed with the rise of technology and media. for better or worse, we’ve had time to pick away and dig(g) at the candidates at a rate unheard of. to that end, not everyone is able or willing to hop online and spend hours reading or watching or debating online about the issues and Senate votes and policies. so THAT’S who these debates are for.

looking forward (and i hate to be morbid), the older generation who don’t utilize the vast amount of readily available information online will pass on and we’ll be the ones at the forefront and that’s where we’ll begin to see a real sea change in how these debates are conducted and presented.

for example, the YouTube debates (http://www.youtube.com/republicandebate). this is where the Debate culture where change. no more moderators as we know them now or stodgy, stale questions. let’s face it: although the moderators say the candidate’s haven’t been previously briefed on the potential questions, they absolutely know what’s coming and how the other side will respond.

it’ll be at least a couple more election cycles before all this happens and is brought into the mainstream, but mark my words: if the shift doesn’t happen in that direction, the “Debate” will die as a dusty old vanguard that forgot what it originally stood for.

(and because this response is so long, i’m making it an entry at my blog)

3 10 2008
where this is headed « S.H.A.

[…] this is headed Mr. M made an entry this afternoon regarding the relevancy of the Debates thus far. an incredibly valid […]

4 10 2008
Liz

I agree! I was involved in debate in high school, and it was exciting. You had an idea, but didn’t really always know what was coming next. Which side would the punch come from? I think one of the biggest kickers for me is that the candidates don’t look at or address each other! They may act like they do, but really, they are addressing the camera with their little rehearsed bits. Its so frustrating. For all the hype, it was a bit of a let down. Except for the part with Palin called him Obiden. Anyone catch that?

4 10 2008
jason

Perhaps the slip of calling him Obiden helped with our Irish Catholic voters….HA
And I was also in a debate my senior year of high school and it was so much fun and exciting …we had folks come from another school to be the moderators and ask all the questions …
This was in the fall of 1992 and I took the part of Gov Clinton ….I had not thought of that really until today …Fun Times !!!!!

4 10 2008
Mary

I took a debate class at Huntingdon w/ Dr. Szpiech and I dare say it was EXTREMELY difficult. Probably the hardest class I had before the joy that is law school. These “debates” look ridiculously easy and also not helpful. You are right. It’s just a series of memorized prepared lines and basically it changes nothing as long as no one slips up or falls over or something.

Having said that, I just can’t help myself. I have to see every second.

Also – this is hysterical:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/10/3/43222/8057/718/618653

8 10 2008

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