Back To The Debate
Last Tuesday we had FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE OF 2020. Supposedly, that debate was a dumpster fire, and that dumpster fire was all President Donald Trump’s fault. Was the dumpster fire Trump’s fault? Because the news media is so biased, that is something we should each take the time to evaluate, even if we have to watch the debate again.
My own theory is that the fault for that dumpster fire belongs with each of us, but that is not how we naturally see the problem. Instead, politics raises within each of us a welter of emotions. We remember frustrations, revulsions, betrayals, and hatreds. We grow angry with the “bad people” who keep making things worse! Nevertheless, we each still we feel affection for our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen. If only we could make the world a more just and better place! Then we ponder our own role with seething outrage. What can we do in a massive society in which most of us seem to have so little control? Nothing?
What do we do with big, insolvable problems? Don’t we tend to walk away from them, but at what cost?
Consider. There was nothing especially unusual about the debate between Trump and Biden. If we had actually wanted a debate on the issues, what would we have done? We would allow only one candidate at a time to speak by allowing only one candidate at a time onstage to speak. That is, we would insist the candidates use a format for their debates similar to that of The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (nps.gov).
Lincoln and Douglas agreed to debate in seven of the nine Illinois Congressional Districts; the seven where Douglas had not already spoken. In each debate either Douglas or Lincoln would open with an hour address. The other would then speak for an hour and a half. The first then had 30 minutes of rebuttal. In the seven debates, Douglas, as the incumbent, was allowed to go first four times.
Lincoln and Douglas did not smear each other with sound bites. With respect to the issue of slavery, they each thoughtfully explained their position. That makes what they said fascinating even today.
Do we have the attention span required for a Lincoln-Douglas style debate? Probably, but candidates don’t always want to debate the issues. Often, they much prefer “debating” the character of their opponents, and the modern format of debates lends itself to personal attacks, mudslinging, ridicule and mockery, not a dignified discussion. When we put multiple candidates on the stage at the same time and give them only a short time to speak, don’t we KNOW they will brawl with each other?
When we know what will happen when we do something, and we do it anyway, then who is to blame? If we reward candidates for tearing into each other, who is to blame?
To be continued.
- Part 2: Why Would The Candidates Prefer To Brawl
- Part 3: Why Is Politics A Blood Sport?