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Too many debates, too little interest

September 14, 2007

I didn’t watch the Logo debate. That’s right, I said it. I’ve missed every Republican debate, too. The Univision debate occurred while I had class, though I made little effort to search for it online or read a transcript.

On a blog about maximizing political discourse, such a confession should be anathema. I’m a registered voter; it’s my democratic duty to be informed. Turn that argument on its side, however, and you’ll realize how benign it truly is.

Take, for example, the most recent CNN opinion poll of President Bush’s approval ratings. Unsurprisingly, only 35 percent of Americans surveyed believe the commander in chief is doing a decent job leading the country.

Of course, Iraq has a lot to do with those numbers. In the shadow of a poorly handled week of congressional testimony, President Bush is scheduled to speak to the American people this evening to detail the Administration’s plan for “drawdown” (a rather precarious rhetoric device military leaders use when they don’t want to say “withdraw”) by Summer of 2008. Yet it begs a more important question: where was Congress during all of this?

Think of Iraq as microcosmic. If a hasty exit from Baghdad was America’s top priority — and the Democrats, in their bid for Congressional supremacy during the midterms, said it was — why was there such a lull between November of 2006 and now? Of the sixteen politicians now vying for the presidency, how many of them turned their stump rhetoric into action, translated their complaints into workable policy? And once those said policies and proposals fell through the cracks of congressional gridlock, which candidates, if any, persevered and fought the administration?

I think that’s why I refuse to watch the debates. Aside from their generally uninformative structure, such scripted nonsense early on in the election cycle does little to correct problems in the status quo. Instead, today’s debates are distractions that stifle discourse, stops on long campaign trails that prevent those most able to facilitate change (the politicians) from doing their jobs. The debates demonstrate Congress’ tacit compliance with the executive branch — a major dilemma considering America’s perceivably infallible checks and balances system.

We can analyze as many candidates as we want, picking apart their analogous behavior all the while asserting our ever-growing partisanship, all to no effect. Until we shed the ever so prominent belief that Congress is unable to affect change until November 2008, America’s most troublesome problems will worsen and the debates that discuss them will lack substance. But no one’s willing to ask that question, now are they?

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