Well, the big circus extravaganza, otherwise known as the Democratic Presidential Debate, is over, at least for the time being. Winners have been declared with the resultant cause for celebration and losers have been designated with all the requisite excuse-making. But here is the key question, do we now know who would make the best candidate to run against Donald Trump next year? More to the point, do we have even a hint of a clue as to who would make the best President? The answer to these questions is a resounding NO!
So what did these debates actually DO? What have we discovered as a result of listening to four hours of verbal jousting matches? We learned just which of the twenty debaters is the most glib. We were able to see which of the participants thinks more quickly on his or her feet. But what does that have to do with being a good, effective President? Nothing really! Arguably the best President we’ve ever had was Abraham Lincoln. Was he a great debater? Well, we could ask Stephen A. Douglas about that because he beat Honest Abe in the great Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Two years later, however, he was the abject loser to the same Abraham Lincoln in the Presidential election of 1860.
How do we know who wins a debate nowadays anyway? The sad fact is the news media TELLS us who won and who lost. A debater can make perfectly good sense, produce logical and intelligent proposals to solve the nation’s problems, but if he or she is a little dull, if they don’t have the requisite pizzazz to make us sit up and take notice, that debater will be relegated to the ash heap of debating history. They may have made excellent governors, senators or even Presidents but they lacked the show biz excitement of someone like Robin Williams. And think about it, since when should a Brian Williams, Chris Matthews or Jake Tapper determine who our next President should be?
Today’s world is a complicated place. The specter of nuclear destruction still hangs over our heads. Climate change perhaps poses an equally deadly challenge. The rich are getting richer while the rest of us are merely surviving paycheck to paycheck. The corporate greed that caused the last debilitating recession is rearing its ugly head once more while we watch television or play our computer games. Whoever leads this country in 2021 and beyond has a challenge ahead, perhaps even a matter of life and death. Is being merely glib enough to face down those challenges? I doubt it!
So sure, Joe Biden looked like a stiff on Thursday and Kamala Harris looked like the fearsome prosecutor she once was. Elizabeth Warren successfully portrayed the wonkish college professor she was at Harvard. But what does this have to do with being an effective President? That is the crucial question we face as voters in the 2020 election. The fact that Senator Harris showed herself to be stridently aggressive doesn’t tell us what she will do about health insurance or climate change. Elizabeth Warren may well have the solution for income inequality, but can she get a reluctant Congress to pass all her wonkish ideas into law? Who knows?
And that’s why I call debates da bunk. They do nothing to tell us about a candidate’s judgment or character. They don’t tell us how effective someone will be in the Oval Office as opposed to the debating stage. I may be a whiz at winning arguments but that doesn’t mean I’d be good at finding solutions or bringing about positive change. And in the end, isn’t that what elections are all about? Debates are good spectacle, but they’re a lousy way to choose a President!
Filed under: Politics