What we learned from “what we learned”. Obama/Romney Debate

Posted by Jason Gladfelter, M.A. on October 04, 2012  /   Posted in Articles

The Presidential Debate in Denver on Wednesday night gave reporters plenty of things to write about –who won, who lost and what it all means.  One source (CNN.com) posted an article entitled “5 Things We Learned From the Presidential Debate”. It lists five aspects to be taken from the debate to determine what should be, or was, gleaned from the exchange between Governor Romney and President Obama. Yet, none of the listed items has any substance; none matter when either gentleman takes office.

Debates are all about who wins at arguing with the winner determined by a moderator(s). Substance matters for naught, and as we see in these “things we learned” articles, not even considered. Reports have concluded that Romney “won” this debate based on his positive demeanor, body language and tone, while Obama lost for the more negative levels of these. The CNN.com article claims Obama missed opportunities to attack Romney and slip in some ‘zingers’ that would make Obama look better, and possibly better his chances to ‘win’ this debate.

But, big deal.  Whether Romney looked at ease, or Obama missed chances to win a debate, does not negate the importance of topics concerning America.  Or at least they shouldn’t.  And while news articles and opinion pieces announce what we learned from posture, tone and pursed lips, they underscore the emptiness of salience of presidential debates on either candidate being qualified for the office of president. In other words, the issues facing America, how they were discussed, and what the candidates offered to address these issues were not even touched upon in these articles.  Who cares what each candidate looked like, how they spoke or if they were at ease or angry? Apparently our news sources do.

So, what did we learn from “what did we learn” pieces?  That many journalists and political pundits (and probably a good part of the population) think the debates offer (and should offer) only superficial factors that help calculate which gentleman is the better candidate. And this highlights one problem with Debate: that one side has to win, no matter which superficial factors are used for this determination. In the meantime, issues are ignored, discussion and collaboration shut out, and solutions unreached. The presidential debates, in their current form anyway, only serve to diminish the vetting of candidates based on substantive factors.

A better approach is to have a sit-down discussion between candidates and a neutral facilitator with a flexible structure and loose time limits.  Perhaps even the candidates do not want this.

Don’t debate, collaborate.


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