26 September 2008

up for debate

"what we have to do is find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities."
-hillary clinton

i'm going to have to side with senator clinton: i'm pretty sure our current presidential debate system isn't cutting it. the neutral viewer learns little of value about the candidates, and the party faithful watch their opponents with baited breath for future campaign fodder. would it be so difficult to redesign the system so that americans could learn something about the issues and be able to compare potential policy? i'm excited to watch tonight, but also discouraged at the unlikelihood anything will come of it.

the structure of the debates feeds into society's dangerous propensity for soundbites and quick answers. instead of having three of the same, perhaps this year of "change" would be a good time to try out a new model of debate. a mirrored town hall? a revisit to sirs abe lincoln and stephen douglas? perhaps microphones designed to prevent interruption mid-explanation? there must be a way to reintroduce intelligence and thought into debates. larry sabato describes our current system as a nascar race, where we watch not for the monotony of the laps but for the perhaps catastrophic crash. debates should educate and inspire, not further partisanship. will tonight be the best our political process can create?

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