Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What the Debates Revealed

The debates are over and the sprint toward Election Day is underway. Why do we Americans love televised debates? And, why do we hate them?

The two easy answers are:

1. Debates are much anticipated and seem to be high stakes live television, with everything on the line; they are the ultimate reality game show.

2. Debates are usually a tedious rehashing of oft-stated positions and they have little to do with revealing a candidate’s talent for running the country’s gargantuan executive branch of the government for four years.

Although each debate was a separate event, with its own post-debate sound bites and spin, once they’re over they seem to quickly dissolve into what they were in context -- battles within a larger war of words. And, it’s easy for us to lump them together and see them as “the debates,” with an overall winner and loser.

As a 12-year-old political junkie in the making, I watched the groundbreaking 1960 debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Can’t say how many debates I might have missed since then, but it hasn’t been many. 

This year three debates pitted the presidential candidates against one another. One debate featured the two vice presidential candidates. To refresh your memory and provide a handy reference, here are my reviews of the four 90-minute debates of October 2012.
  • Click here to read, “Obama 9, Romney 3, with 3 rounds even.”
  • Click here to read, “Horses, Bayonets and Maybe a Bad Clam.”
Debates don’t really show us much about how a candidate would make decisions as president. They don’t necessarily expose a candidate’s true beliefs or their actual plans. Inevitably, what they do is reveal how the candidates look when they're under tremendous pressure.

Whatever use that may be to voters, it’s clear we Americans love to hate the debates that occur near the end of presidential campaigns. Most of the time, it seems viewers are looking for the candidate they already prefer to say more things they like to hear. It's hard for me to imagine how anyone could be undecided at this late date, yet that's the audience the candidates' strategies are supposedly aimed at.

Like, if you don't know whether you want Mitt Romney or Barack Obama appointing the next Supreme Court justice, or deciding whether to go to war, then I don't know what anyone could say to settle your mind.

It could be the undecideds who intend to vote enjoy waiting to see which candidate will look the most uncomfortable under the bright lights of the debates ... then they decide accordingly.

Bottom line: Maybe the best thing about the debates is they are a familiar signal that the long campaign is almost over.

1 comment:

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