Once again Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama faced off in a debate to give us a better idea of what the candidates are offering. And once again the voting public is stuck with a bunch of talking points and sound bites that tell us absolutely nothing about anything important. Mitt Romney has got binders full of women. Obama reacted to the bombing in Libya in a way that Romney may have misremembered. Do any of these things matter when choosing a president?
Debates these days are well-oiled machines that are planned and negotiated well down to the last detail. The spontaneous interjection by moderator Candy Crowley violated these terms but also added a bit of life to the otherwise droning debates.
In fact, the best thing about the VP debates was the human approach. Love him or hate him, Vice President Joe Biden certainly made an impression as he chuckled his way through the debate – leading me to think he might be the only sane politician left in this bunch of candidates, a rather terrifying thought.
In my travels, I have seen several elections around the world and one of the things that has made the greatest impression has been the debates. I watched party leaders in Sweden face off while campaigning to gain control of parliament. When one candidate gave a vague, typical political answer the moderator responded with “That doesn’t really answer the question, what you are going to DO about this problem?” to which the politician stumbled and admitted there was no concrete plan at the moment.
But in the U.S. the debates consist of scoring points for outdodging your opponent or for saying the most bizarre and strange thing.
At the end of the day the U.S. debates are reflective of the entire election process, something that is now so dominated by the donations of big business, we individual voters start to feel more like an annoyance that must be tamed, than a target audience that will later be served.
I don’t think this is party specific either. A talking point is chosen for the week and we are all expected to swallow whatever it is that is being sold us. None of it is about the issues that we really want to talk about – the economy, jobs, health care and the state of government today. Instead it is about issues that are important, but also distracting, gay marriage, abortion, and other issues over which the President of the United States has rather limited control.
It would be nice if campaign reform could actually pass that would limit corporate donations and allow us constituents to actually get to hear what we want from our politicians. But as long as we get enraged enough by what is fed us, I don’t see that happening any time soon.