Now that the presidential debates are over, I can finally check Facebook again.
Well, not really, since no one ever really stops checking Facebook, but at least now I can stop rolling my eyes with every other status update. It’s not that they’re all bad—I never would have learned about the “binders full of women” gaffe or last night’s crack about bayonets without someone’s snarky post—but, in politics, good intentions invariably turn sanctimonious in the span of a soundbite. I’ve also had a friend complain that those of us not watching the debates were lazy, shallow, and uninformed. Another guy complained that anyone critical of President Obama’s recovery efforts obviously doesn’t know history, because the New Deal took twelve years to take full effect (and then how many years to lose effect?). I didn’t watch the debates, any of them, and I’m unimpressed with TARP, the stimulus package, and the D-student logic that says we should be grateful for eight percent unemployment because it could have been, you know, twenty, or thirty, or any of the millions of numbers bigger than eight; in short, dear Facebook friends, I am a monster.
Well, not really.
Let’s ignore, for the moment (or longer, preferably), the substance of the debates, the candidate’s positions, and look at the misguided idea that watching them somehow makes you a super-citizen, puts you on some pedestal of the republic from which you can look down at the huddled masses who had something else to do at nine ‘o’clock. Really, how much knowledge could you possibly gain, how effective are the debates? If the debates were the one and only form of campaigning allowed—and think of how wonderful that could be—then they would actually serve the role of informing of us on the candidates’ views. But Obama has been in office for nearly four years now: if you want to know what his stance is, look at his record. And Romney has been campaigning since he won the nomination, since the primaries started, and since the 2008 primaries: if you want to know his position, look at some of the thousands of hours he’s spent stumping in front of a microphone (and then check to make sure he hasn’t changed his mind). A lot gets made of who “won” the debate, who had the best zinger or seemed the most comfortable, but this isn’t the Roman Senate and we’re not voting to replace Cicero, so master oration and high style are only tangentially relevant, especially next to the fact that neither man is saying anything you can’t hear them, or scores of other politicians, say in a dozen different venues.
So, what would have enticed me to switch over to the debates? Well, if they weren’t the sort of spectacle I described above, namely if they invited third party candidates. Not only should they be included out of simple democratic fairness, but doing so would actually give the debates some purpose. Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, and the like don’t get the exposure that the Democratic and Republican candidates get; many voters might not know the candidates’ names, let alone their positions, so there would be new information presented instead of the same talking points. There would be more variety in position, since the third parties tend to run the full gamut of positions, where the Democrats and Republicans both hover in the middle. Instead of a moderate free market candidate debating a moderate regulator, we could see the hyper-hands-off Libertarians spar with Socialists. The snarky comments in that debate would make Joe Biden look like a kitten.
So, instead of judging you on whether or not you watched the debates or whom you plan on voting for, I’ve decided, in rare form, to be helpful. Below are some links attempting to make up for the failings of the debate. If anyone out there has the video/tech ability to make it happen, I’d like to see these run together and superimposed in the official debate footage.
http://www.examiner.com/topic/third-party A muti-part debate style interview with a variety of third part candidates.
http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/506341f102a76075b2000472 A discussion with representatives from various socialist organizations, including the Socialist Party-USA and the Freedom Socialist Party, both of whom are running write-in candidates for President.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/405620#i0,p16,s2012,d0 I hate to endorse John Stossel, but this episode features interviews and debate with Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Virgil Goode (Constitution Party), and Stewart Alexander (Socialist).
http://www.democracynow.org/2012/10/17/exclusive_expanding_the_debate_with_third A debate featuring Virgil Goode, Jill Stein (Green), and Rocky Anderson (Justice Party).