Okay, tonight’s the big night; the night that will undoubtedly get supporters for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney all lathered up and heading into the social media universe to stir things up with supporters of their rival candidates. Expect an increase in people trolling through Facebook and Twitter looking to call someone who thinks differently or supports someone that isn’t their political savior foul names and regurgitate party dogma and rhetoric; yep, tonight is the first of the Presidential Debates and I guarantee the mudslinging will start in earnest the second it is over.
Tonight’s debate is going to be on jobs and the economy, two very important issues this particular election year. We have been told repeatedly by the media that this debate, and I guess the subsequent debates too, will be potential “game changers” in the Presidential election. Sure, there have been both GOP and Democrat mouthpieces downplaying and lowering expectations for whomever they are supporters of. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been sequestered away for the past several days practicing their debating chops, reviewing their talking points, and I guess hitting the heavy bag hoping to land a crippling body blow on their rival.
Debaters are always given the subject of whatever it is that they are asked to debate about, they kind of have to be; otherwise it really wouldn’t be much of a debate. The subject is given so that the participants can research data, develop their positions, anticipate their opponent’s responses, and prepare rebuttals. In honest debates though the participants are rarely if ever involved in crafting or approving the questions they are going to be asked, nor are they typically allowed to choose who is going to be the moderator, or moderators of the debate either. Yet that is what our Presidential debates have become.
I saw an piece of an interview with Arizona Senator, and former GOP Presidential nominee, John McCain the other day, and he was asked about the possibility of some sort of seminal moment that could happen in this debate; a moment that would be the “game changer” that the media keeps telling us could happen. I think McCain’s response was rather telling. He said something to the effect that those kind of moments in debates are rare, harkening back to the last time something like that happened was in one of the 1984 Presidential debates between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan. The interesting thing about his statement is that is also the last Presidential election in which the debates were sponsored by the independent, non-partisan, League of Women’s Voters. Ever since that election the debates have been crafted, scheduled, and organized by the bi-partisan run Commission on Presidential Debates.
Before that Commission’s founding the candidates were of course given the subjects of the debates, and they were given a little input on who the moderators and questioners were going to be, but they were not given a complete preview of or the possibility to approve/disapprove what the questions prior to the debates are going to be. This lack of complete and total control allowed for those “Ah-Ha!” moments.
Today, since the debates are run by both the Democrats and the Republicans, virtually all aspects of the debates are essentially scripted, from those who ask the questions, the questions themselves, and of course the answers. Basically the Presidential Debates are a farce, as are each big tent party’s national conventions.
Some will argue that I am just saying this because the candidate I like isn’t allowed to participate in these debates. Okay, that is a fair argument – to an extent. Even if you are a dyed in the wool Red or Blue person though, with just an inkling of rational thought, and have left the door to your mind cracked open just a smidge, knowing that these debates are entirely scripted from the questioners to the questions themselves, knowing that by doing this diminishes the possibility of your favorite candidate catching the opponent flat footed, and potentially swing your person in the polls upward, shouldn’t you also be even a little disappointed then that the debates have become little more than political theater? I would hope that most rational, relatively open-minded people of either political color would find the scripting of the debates a little disheartening.
So, as you gather your friends and family around the television tonight (I’m being a little facetious there) to watch what should be a political rumble, don’t be surprised if it comes across more polished than that. Sure there will be pointed barbs from one candidate towards the other, but don’t expect a slip-up by one or the other in their answers, because they both already approved the questions and have been preparing their answers to those questions for days – if not weeks. If either of these two guys screws up their answer to a question they already knew, then they most certainly don’t have the mental capacity to be President of the United States; it would be like failing an open book, or take home exam.
My prediction is that this debate and the subsequent debates will barely nudge the polling numbers one way or the other. If you are a Red person your mind was made up on who you were going to vote for once the election results came in way back in 2000; likewise if you are a blue person. If you are one of the growing numbers of independents then I would suspect that some will be swayed; probably because it will help you decide which candidate you dislike the least; while I believe many more are so jaded that they won’t even watch. If you really want these debates to have the potential to move the needle and sway voters of all stripes then they really need to cease being scripted, and rehearsed like a Broadway Musical. Nobody goes to see one of those looking for an actor to flub their line, and no one should watch a Presidential Debate to see a candidate give rote responses to questions they approved and probably helped to craft too.
By the way, if you want to hear a different view and opinion to this debate, Libertarian Party candidate Gov. Gary Johnson will be providing his commentary tonight during the debate as well. Click here to learn more.
Basically it starts with four months of training, just basic stretching, kicking and punching. Then you come to the choreography and getting ready to put the dance together. (Keanu Reeves on preparing for the fight scenes in the Matrix)