I think that the time has come to declare presidential debates dead. In their current format, they are as useless as the Iowa straw polls. (More)
The last debate was painful to watch as a Democrat. Tonight’s vice presidential debate will probably be better for Democrats, but it won’t change the basic fact. In their current format the presidential debates are a waste of time and money.
Debates for U.S. House, Senate, and state and local offices may give voters their best chance to evaluate candidates they would otherwise know only as names on yard signs. But all the presidential debates do is give the media and the pundits a chance to insert themselves into the fray, declaring winners and losers and offering postmortems:
The presidential debates offer viewers a lot of substance about the issues of the campaign – but post-debate media coverage can undermine the value they have for voters, a new study suggests.
Results showed that post-debate coverage that focused on the debate as a competition led viewers to think less about policy issues. By comparison, coverage that focused on the substance of the discussion increased the likelihood that viewers would come away with specific thoughts about candidates’ policy proposals.
I have this rather quaint idea that the media’s role was/is to educate and inform the public. Silly me. By focusing on who won or lost based on body language and style, the media actually reduce voters’ attention to the issues.
Then there’s the issue of lying. Can’t the media report on lies? Really is the volume of lies too much? ThinkProgress reported that Romney lied 27 times in 38 minutes. That’s great but there seems to be no way in the debate format to call the liar out on the spot. Without instant fact checkers, the debates are no longer a format to exchange ideas about vision, values and policies. Can you imagine a bunch of fact checkers at the moderation table each will their own mute button? And what if they could type the facts and sources on the crawl messages?
The problem with all of the above modifications is that they add to the debates as some sort of reality TV. The idea of a debate in its classic sense, think Lincoln Douglas, was all about ideas and arguments. What we have now is more like Survivor and I don’t for a minute think that it is educating or informing citizens and voters. This is so much more important than who leaves some island on TV.
Back to the Iowa straw polls. The straw polls are simply a Republican fundraiser attached to the fair. To vote a person must purchase a $30 ticket but often campaigns buy the tickets and distributes them to their supporters.
In August of 2011 Michele Bachmann received 4,823 votes and Ron Paul came in second with 4,671 votes. This is a non-binding poll and a win doesn’t mean anything except a whole lot of reality TV buzz. Stupid media people descending on Iowa in August and covering this event as if it were meaningful or significant.
The media should be ashamed of how they cover the Iowa polls and how they cover the presidential debates. It is time someone declared the debates DOA. My advice, turn off the TV and the debates and GOTV. It is the only path to victory for Democrats.