Last evening while fixing dinner, I listened to NPR's broadcast of the Republican and Democratic candidates "debates" from New Hampshire. If you need something good for a headache, that was it ... although why you would want a headache, I don't know.
I suppose I'm just old-fashioned, but what I heard last night - and what I've heard any number of times since this presidential campaign began - wasn't a debate. My trusty Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines debate as "a contention by words or arguments: as a: the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure; b: a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides."
In those terms, what I suffered through last night wasn't a debate. It was two unwieldy groups of opinionated individuals shooting volleys of statistics and accusations at each other. If there was a genuine debate ... a detailed discussion of policy differences and approaches to the future, I must have missed it. The general course of this "debate," and all the others this election season, seemed to be this:
1. The moderator asks a question.
2. The first candidate says whatever he or she wants, whether it relates to the question or not.
3. The other candidates tell him or her how clearly unfit for election he or she is, using volleys of statistics, half-truths, and general bloviation.
4. Everyone shouts at everyone else for a while while the moderator tries to reestablish control.
5. The moderator asks another question.
6. Steps 2-4 are repeated ad nauseum.
I remember the good old days, when a debate was a debate. We've come a long way from the days of Lincoln versus Douglas and Kennedy versus Nixon. Part of the problem is a format that provides equal time to a thundering herd of candidates, most of whom have no realistic chance of being elected. In a misguided attempt to be "fair" to all the candidates, we have lost the ability to have the kind of thorough, detailed discussion - real debate - that the electorate needs to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Or, this year, the chaff from the other chaff.
Ah, for the good old days, when a debate was a debate. Nowadays, it's just what you use to catch de fish.
Sorry about that.
And sorry about the current herd of candidates. Maybe things will look better once we've thinned the herd down to two.
But somehow, I doubt it.
According to the US Census Bureau's population clock, at this moment the population of the United States is 303,193,217. Even if we take out all the illegal aliens, that's still a pretty big number.
You'd think that out of roughly 300 million people, we could come up with better candidates than these.
Maybe next time.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.