By Nick Davis and Lou Aronson
Congratulations. President Obama showed fire and came out punching. And, Governor Romney was energetic and didn’t back down. Really? Is that what we want? Is this what we need? No.
We recently read this great piece from Holman Jenkins and could not help but be struck by the folly of the entire debate spectacle. You will not read here who won and who lost. Nor will we take our usual approach of staking out the legitimacy of each side’s argument. Today, we have decided to ask for a bit more.
With elections and debates based more about performances and appearances these days rather than substance and ideas, its no wonder we refer to it as “political theatre.” Think about it, we spend more time as a society debating who had more talking time, who had the best one-liners, who we can relate to more, and who “brought it” best and very little on things that actually matter. The fact remains that these two men are interviewing for our nation’s highest position and yet no one has asked either of them what their leadership style is, what their biggest challenge was and how they overcame it, or what is your greatest weakness and how do compensate for it. Instead, our two candidates resort to snide comments, loose truths, and loads of interruptions. And, when someone gets in a zinger we celebrate the 10-second snippet rather than the context or relevance to the gravity of the position or moment. To beat the dead horse, are we looking for a great president or a great stand up comedian? We need to do more than “wag the dog.”
Do these qualities sound like something you would want to deal with at your place of work? Absolutely not. Has anyone else noticed that the American public and media treat these campaigns and debates like a football game? Tracking possession of time and emotional swings of men and women seems to be more important than the actual issues. If you are somehow unaware of this fact, make sure to watch Monday’s debate on CNN. In fact, I happened to catch a glimpse of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer this afternoon. I bet you can’t guess what they discussed. They examined the issues and the effects of their respective policies you say? Ha! No, instead we got an in-depth analysis of each candidate’s body language, as if body language is somehow a critical element of the Libya attack and the economic effect of Romney’s tax plan.
Americans have short memories. The proof is in the reactions to the debates in Denver and Long Island. According to just about everyone, Romney won the first debate handily and Obama fought back and won by a seemingly smaller margin than Romney’s in Denver and yet Obama is somehow back in the driver’s seat in the election. Last time I checked, margin of victory doesn’t matter and a tie is just that, a tie. If each candidate has one win, how is it that Obama is “ahead” again in the race? This isn’t college football where one team who lost earlier in the season is ranked higher than a team with an equal record who lost last week. Politics isn’t a game. We deserve better.
America is an entertainment society. Sound bites are just about all we can handle before we inevitably become bored and distracted. Fact checking is boring; one-liners are funny. Policy analysis is dull; rooting for someone is exhilarating. While these amusements keep us happy now, we will always be dissatisfied with the long-run effects of whom we vote for because we as a society are incapable and unwilling to put in our due diligence now. I leave you with a fantastic little poem I found written by David Wolpe. If you are one of the few who has an attention span long enough to get to the end of this article, we say to you, “well done.” We need more people like you.