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Dating, Deals, and Debates

September 19, 2007

As I grew up, I was infamous for making deals with my mother. My sisters had to share a room while I had my own room until I went to college, as long as I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was eighteen. I was allowed to date this boy I liked when my mom thought I was still too young for dating if I gave up chewing gum. When I wanted to go to prom at my friend’s high school that was known for a very lax administration, my mom said that I could go if I watched one of the presidential debates with her.

Unlike me while I was in high school, most people are not bribed to watch presidential debates. The people who do watch debates are often the hardcore political junkies who already know which candidate they support. How do we actually get average citizens interested in the issues and candidates enough to sit down and watch a debate? I think on some level people need to be interested in the issues because they realize that this is what shapes the world we live in. People need to watch the debates in order to become informed voters and learn more about the government that runs much of their lives. True that the Lincoln-Douglas debate style might be more interesting, but if people don’t care about the subject matter, they aren’t going to care that the debates are more interesting.

So I pose a question to other bloggers: if the debates are more interesting, will more people care about the subject matter? Or does the culture need to change before the Average Joe and Jill find the debates stimulating?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Zakahi permalink
    September 19, 2007 4:00 pm

    Interesting story. Are you suggesting we turn the debates into a reality show?

  2. LexLaura permalink
    September 20, 2007 12:50 am

    No, I am kinda asking what are the implications of getting rid of rules? If we got rid of all the rules, I think some people would turn in, just to see if someone did something crazy.

    Now, I would like to think that anyone running for president would have more class than to do anything too insulting, but at the same time, it is shocking what people will do for ratings.

    I think that by changing the debate structure we need to make sure that the new debate format centers around the issues, not getting ratings or coming up with new gimmics.

  3. Zakahi permalink
    September 20, 2007 7:45 pm

    How then, do you manage to change the debate format, while still managing to get the frontrunners (who have a lot to lose from a loosely structured debate) to attend. You can get all of the lower candidates to attend an unstructured debate, but without popular frontrunner no one will watch.

  4. LexLaura permalink
    September 20, 2007 9:28 pm

    Well, ideally, the popular frontrunners would come in an attempt to get ideas out about the issues and to clarify their positions. That doesn’t mean that the debates couldn’t have good ratings, but the goal should be to inform voters.

    Now I know that good ratings are essential for business and for getting more voters informed, I am just saying that gimmicks just to get high ratings is not what debates should be about.

  5. LexLaura permalink
    September 28, 2007 3:53 am

    I must say, I don’t know blogger etiquette well enough to know if you can post a response on your own comment. However, I want to talk about the same topic I wrote about last week, and I think that responding to myself will be sufficient, although I don’t really know how that helps the dialogue.

    How can we get people interested in watching the debates? We could go the James Kotecki way and root for a youtube rumble. If we had PREZ CANDIDATE SMACKDOWN!!! Would more people care about the debates? If we had really conflict-driven arguments, people might tune in, just to see if certain candidates would go crazy, be rude, or start throwing chairs at their opponents? And more importantly, how can we change the debating system without completely defeating the whole purpose of changing the debate system?

    I think we need to find a balance. Right now, the debates are way too far on the side of legalism and rules. However, I think that if debates try to attract people by changing structure too much, some might start watching, hoping for a Jerry-Springer-like atmosphere. While I like to think that our candidates have more class than anything too crazy, you never know what the future could hold.

    The debates really need to focus on the issues. We not only need to know the candidates views on taxes, abortion, immigration, the war, gun control, gay marriage, etc. but we also need to know WHY the candidates hold those views.

    These are crazy and extreme examples, but suppose a candidate says (s)he is against the war. Great. We now know the position. What are the motivations behind the position? If the motivation is to save American and Iraqi lives, fine. If the motivation is to remove American troops in order to set up a stable Iraqi government that supports civil liberties and can protect itself, great. If the motivation is because they think that America should go back to its days of isolationism, lock down our borders, and never have anything to do with another country, that might not be the candidate an anti-war citizen wants to vote for.

    Same thing with abortion. If a candidate supports abortion for eugenic purposes because minorities are more likely to have abortions than Caucasians, I definitely have a problem with that.

    When looking at candidates, I want to know where they stand on issues, why they have those opinions, and what they are planning to do about it.

    I think debates need to center on issues because we often hear what a candidate thinks on a particular issue and what they plan to do about it, but we never hear about why they think the way they do.

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