Summary: Here is everything you need to know about yesterday’s debate, beyond the trivialities that filled the 90 minutes. These are things your favorite news media might not have mentioned.
- South Park shows us a great debate.
- The candidates lie to us!
- Compare these debates with real debates.
- Do debates matter?
- Reactions to the debate.
- For More Information.
Debate between Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich .
Prophecy by South Park, aired on 27 October 2004.
Just like our debates, but more entertaining.
(2) The candidates lie to us!
There is much pearl-clutching by the chattering classes about the lies told by the candidates. This is quite absurd, or perhaps just decades too late for outrage. Our candidates lie to us because they are smart. They have learned that we accept lies (perhaps we even prefer lies). Look at the big list of lies since 1940 by our leaders — all successful, for none of which we inflicted retribution.
When we no longer tolerate lies from our leaders, then our leaders will lie to us less often.
(3) Compare these debates with real debates.
To see how far we’ve decayed, I recommend a look at the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (also see the Wikipedia entry). They read like term papers of today’s college sophomores. They are longer, more complex and sophisticated than the “debates” of today, in which candidates volley sound-bites with journalists. The L-D debates gave tangible evidence of a vibrant democracy. American will be back on track when we produce something like this.
(4) Do debates matter?
- “Journalists claim big effects from the debates. They’re wrong.” by Brendan Nyhan (Prof of government at Dartmouth), 20 August 2008.
- “Do Presidential Debates Really Matter?” by John Sides (assoc prof of political science at George Washington U) at Washington Monthly, Sept/Oct 2012 — “Remember all the famous moments in past debates that changed the outcome of those elections? Well, they didn’t.”
- “Here’s the political science evidence” by Andrew Prokop at Vox, 26 Sept 2016.
(5) Update: Reactions to the debate.
My favorite headline about this is “Debate of century lives up to its billing” by Niall Stange in The Hill , a demonstration of the new media’s frantic shilling of this contest to get the most clicks before it ends. In fact nothing of note happened. Stange focuses on the most trivial of the candidates’ carefully crafted sound-bites — and on their possible effects on the horse race.
For a useful analysis of the debates see “Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate” by Jeffrey St. Clair at CounterPunch. It is loaded with insights that mainstream journalists either don’t see or won’t see.
This election is a circus because we allow them to pander to our desire for entertainment, exploiting our disinterest in the great issues facing America. We can make America into whatever we want, if we are willing to make the necessary effort.
(7) For More Information
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- A reminder that debates are fun, not politics: Reagan had Alzheimer’s in 1984 and we didn’t notice.
- The presidential debates are performance art. They’re Kabuki.
- Monty Python explains our presidential debates.