Are Presidential Debates Constructive?
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 15:10
Big headlines sell commercials. And after the Presidential Debate on Wednesday, I didn’t need to look far for evidence. “Romney Dominates Debate,” “Economy focus of debate showdown” and “Not Debatable: Obama Stumbled.” These are the three headlines that flashed on CNN.com, CBSNews.com and Politico.com shortly after the debate Wednesday night. I pretended to wonder if the 90-minute (minus commercials) duel lived up to the hype.
Feeling guilty for ignoring the debate and instead reading a fiction novel, I thought I’d seek amnesty by catching up online. It wasn’t long before I threw up my arms in surrender to the bold dramatic headlines shrouded with red, white and blue photographs of President Obama and Candidate Romney pointing fingers in an attempt to appear stern, confident and presidential. All this, of course, posted along big numbers recording the polled “winner.”
Before long, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the headlines, I escaped to a news venue across the pond hoping the distance might foster an objective story. “U.S. election: Obama and Romney debate economy in Denver,” was the headline at BBCNews.com. Alas! An approachable article worth the risk of either candidate yelling “Outsourcer!”
I don’t deny the fact that debates offer an opportunity for Mitt Romney to outline his plan for America and try establishing himself in his own terms directly to the voter. It’s true that President Obama could use his share of the 90 minutes to defend his record as President and outline his vision for another term. But to think that the nearly priceless undecided and swing voters’ decisions hinge on the debates makes me sick.
Are we really going to vote for our leader based on how well the candidates practiced delivering storyline-worthy quips? Does looking into the camera on stage really prove one understands the needs of a nation’s people? Does a live summary of the $361 million that has been spent so far in negative commercials really help voters understand each candidate’s vision of the country of our future?
I hope that for a day we all treat elections as more than an evening spectacle. Ultimately, the resulting rigorous, well-varied discussion from multiple candidates will indeed be newsworthy. Until then, I can look forward to a couple more nights of being entertained by another paperback fiction of my own choosing.
Troy is a senior majoring in architecture.