I’ve heard a lot today about how the presidential debates are antiquated or useless, so I wanted to respond. I believe there’s a lot of good that can be gleaned from the debates. Most importantly, the debates remove the media from the equation for 90 minutes and expose Americans directly to the candidates. Think about it: how much have we really heard directly from the candidates themselves? Have we seen entire speeches, read policy statements, or met the candidates in person?
For most of us, the answer is no. We’ve seen articles written about the candidates, complete with one or two sentence quotes, you-tube style video clips of a few seconds of a speech here and there, and lots of 30-second campaign commercials. The truth of the matter is, we spend much more time listening to other people talk about the candidates than we do listening to the candidates themselves. That’s just not responsible.
I’m convinced that if you intend to vote but don’t really like to spend your time following politics, watching the debates should be your minimum commitment to the democratic process. If you do nothing else before voting, do this: watch each debate in its entirety, then turn off the TV. After deciding what you agreed with and what you didn’t, read a fact-checking article to make sure the candidates didn’t lie about the things you valued, then make up your mind. We’d all be better off if the system worked like this.