Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Talking Heads

“The United States does not have presidential debates in any realistic sense of the word. It holds quadrennial joint appearances by major-party candidates who have been schooled in the art of saying little of consequence in the most absurdly aggressive way. And Americans will be served a full helping this evening.

That is because presidential debates have become the political equivalent of a classic rock radio station. You’ll hear all the hits, and maybe even a few obscure tracks that you’d almost forgotten.

But the whole point of the Barack Obama’s appearance will be to say nothing that harms himself and everything that harms Mitt Romney, just as the whole point of Romney’s appearance will be to say nothing that harms himself and everything that harms Obama.

Neither man will leave his comfort zone. Neither will jump off the narrow track on which this year’s campaign has been running.

In most developed nations—from Canada to Britain to Australia to France—debates are multi-candidate, multi-party affairs. It is not uncommon for five, six, even seven candidates to take the stage. Those countries do not just survive the clashes, they thrive—with higher levels of political engagement than the United States has seen in decades.

Only the most crudely authoritarian states erect the sort of barriers that the United States maintains to entry into the debates by so-called “minor-party” candidates.

And why?

The fool’s argument against expanding the number of contenders is that debates involving more than the nominees of the two big parties—which, conveniently, control the access to the debates through their joint Commission on Presidential Debates—is that it would somehow confuse the electorate. As if Americans aren’t quite as sharp as the French.

Adding more candidates would not create confusion. It would add clarity.”

(John Nichols)

Via: "The Nation Magazine"

No comments: