Polictical Debates in the 21st Century
As I researched the Lincoln-Douglas debates this week I found myself contrasting these debates of 1858 with ones we can tune into on CNN during this election season. I came to the conclusion that political debates today have become entirely too safe and predictable.
Lincoln used debate as a way to thrust himself onto the political stage and become a true contender in 1860 election. Lincoln was able to build a campaign and following on the speeches he made in 1858. Lincoln and Douglas both got a full, uninterrupted hour to address the issues they felt prevalent, which was predominately slavery’s position in American society.
The 2004 presidential debates lasted ninety minutes total, already allotting a smaller portion of time to each candidate. Candidates are asked specific questions, which could be beneficial; withstanding that rhetoric can be used to avoid fully answering questions they are uncomfortable with. Two minutes are giving for closing statements are the end of the debate.
It is no wonder that with this structured format only about 40% of Americans tuned into the 2004 debates. Debates should return to being less scripted and give the candidates a chance to truly connect with the citizens watching. Honestly, can you see history classes in fifty years discussing and studying the Bush-Kerry debate in 2004 with as much revere as we now study the Lincoln-Douglas debates? Perhaps major news networks keep this question in mind before arranging the Fall 2008 debates.