I’m forced to ask myself why I am so unenthusiastic about the presidential debates tonight. I guess the answer isn’t too hard to understand if you sat through the first one.
I watched the two senators go on for 90 minutes without mentioning a single specific detail on anything they were proposing. I disappointing watched the moderator let them both get away with it. They both opened themselves up for some good follow-up questions, which of course, were not asked.
No, it was not at all a real debate. It was campaign slogans and catch phrases.
The part I was most impressed with was their ability to squirm away from the question that was actually asked and then walk themselves into a place where they could deliver the one-liner they wanted to make a news headline. This is the greatest strength of both these two men. They can evade like no other.
But all in all, this adds up to not only be boring, but uninformative. So why should I waste my time.
Of course we could spice things up a bit. We could introduce a moderator that will actually hold these guys to task. Someone who, when they make generalities, will nail them down on specifics. Someone who won’t let them evade questions they don’t want to answer. During the VP debate, Gov. Palin straight up said, “I’m going to stand here and talk about what I want to talk about.” That is not debate.
Or we could introduce more candidates and more ideas into the mix. But we know the RNC and DNC would never allow that. That is why the two parties got together to form the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
One of my favorite books is Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Every time I read about the CPD, I think about this book.
One of the main characters in this book is Orren Boyle, the CEO of Associated Steel. He is not a great businessman but he is a great politician. His opposite is Hank Reardon, of Reardon Steel. Hank is an exceptional businessman, but has no interest in what goes on in Washington. Hank keeps taking market share away from Orren. Orren starts petitioning his Washington buddies to slow down Hank. Hank is vilifies in the media because he is so rich, so the laws that are strangling his ability to do business are praised as “fair”. Nobody could produce anymore than any other in their industry. Quotes were strictly enforced.
While Orren was networking with the politicians, Hank was working to design a new metal to replace steel. After years or hard work and long nights, he produced a metal that was stronger, lighter, and cheaper to produce than steel. This of course was devastating to Orren’s business. He lobbied to Washington on how it was unfair that someone could come up with a new idea and make his business obsolete. Eventually the government passed a law that was a “moratorium on brains”. New ideas and new methods of production were outlawed because they would be unfair to those who didn’t think of them. The end results were not positive.
To me, the RNC and DNC are just like Orren Boyle. They are petrified of losing their position in the world. However instead of focusing on being the best political party they can be, focused on giving the people freedom and liberty, they focus on keeping all others shut out of the process. They fear having competition because they might not be able to measure up. They fear new ideas that can make them obsolete.
This is why the RNC and DNC banded together to form the Commission of Presidential Debates. This is why the debates have been such a poor product in recent years. The negotiations are held in secret and the major party candidates set the terms. They pick who moderates, they decide the structure.
This year, since both Senator Biden and Gov. Palin are both gaffe prone, the commission shorted the response times for their questions and eliminated follow-up questions to make it less likely they would say something stupid. Again, denying us a good debate.
Nobody else is allowed to get into the game. Originally, the requirement to get into the debate was to be polling greater than 10% nationally. In ’92 Ross Perot was close to that number. They became alarmed to find this requirement to be achievable, so they promptly raised the limit to 15% .
In ’92, Ross Perot was allowed into the debate. This is was because both Bush and Clinton agreed to let him in. If either refused, he would have been out of luck. In ’96 he was polling around 9%, just like in ’92. Bob Dole feared Perot could cut into his base, so he struck a deal with President Clinton to keep Perot out. President Clinton, as the incumbent, wasn’t interested in debate or discussing issues. His terms for shutting out Perot where that there would only be 2 debate instead of 3 and the debates would be held at the same time as the World Series so nobody would watch them. The ratings were very, very low.
When pollster ask people if third party candidates should be allowed into the debates, Americans answer with a resounding yes. Americans don’t believe in shutting out new ideas like the RNC and DNC.
The truth is, no third party candidate will reach 15% in the polls unless they are allowed into the debate. How else can they get their message heard? Instead of a polling restriction, the requirement should be based on how many ballots they were able to get on. Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, Chuck Baldwin, and Cynthia McKinney are all on enough ballots to win. They should be given a chance to say what they have to say. Then we can let the American people decide who they want to run the country, not who the Commission on Presidential Debates wants.