Presidential debates are pointless and counterproductive

With all the media hype surrounding these debates, no one has asked the one unanswerable question: Why do we watch these things? Photo: Associated Press

CHICAGO, October 22, 2012 — The presidential debates are nationally touted as an important showcase of the candidates’ policies. The idea is that the two men competing to lead our country will stand face to face and square off, providing answers to the questions voters have. 

Unfortunately, debates have become valueless spectacles that aren’t worth the TV time they absorb.

The main goal of the debates is not to sway those voters already committed to the opposition. In other words, Romney is not out to convert Democrats any more than Obama is out to win over Republicans. Instead, their targets are the undecided voters in the undecided states. The tiny group of people who plan to vote but have not yet selected their candidate has become critically important in this heated – and close – election.

Is there a problem with Obama and Romney attending debates to help their prospects by appearing superior and answer tough questions in a comprehensive (to borrow the President’s new favorite adjective) way?

There wouldn’t be any problem with it, if undecided voters paid attention. The problem is that they do not.

It is impossible to remain undecided while watching this election with genuine interest. The candidates have done an excellent job of separating their individual platforms to simplify the choice for America: Obama insists his path will work, Romney passionately disagrees.

It makes no sense that an undecided voter who sincerely followed the race an attempted to learn about the candidates would fail to gain that knowledge. It would be like watching an entire football game with your friend only to have them ask “which team is the purple team?” with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. It’s crystal clear to anyone who actually pays attention.

In other words, undecideds are not paying attention, not to the election and certainly not to the debates.

With this in mind, it is effectively ridiculous to claim that these debates will sway the undecided voter. What undecided voters see are the media reactions to the debates, which often have little to do with the actual debates. The importance of these debates is never about whose statistics were more accurate; it is about which candidate asserted himself and looked more like a presidential alpha-dog.

If we can see these truths, of course Romney and Obama can as well. So why do they keep doing this? Why do they keep stepping into the ring to lie?

The reason is that both candidates want to reduce themselves to the level of the undecided voters to earn their trust. They want undecided voters to see a big tough man in a suit leading their country, so they spit out whatever statistics their mind can fabricate on the spot in as forceful a voice as possible. We have all seen the fact checks after the debates and we now know how inaccurate the claims are, and yet the candidates keep debating to tell the undecided voter to “look at me.”

If a candidate wanted his point to be made based on facts, he would be better off leaving an undecided voter alone to peruse the internet. Instead, the candidates lower themselves to an exchange of falsities to appeal to a group that was probably watching the ALCS on Tuesday night.

So tell me again … Why do we have these debates?

To contact Nick Goralka, see above to send him an e-mail containing a question, comment, or scathing insult. His work appears in Alley-oops for Touchdowns! and The Liberal Pinko in the Communities at the Washington Times Online.



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Nicholas Goralka

Nick Goralka is a sports enthusiast with eclectic interests. In addition to cheering on and suffering along with his Chicago teams, Nick is a competitively-ranked tennis player, enjoys debating real versus imaginary numbers in mathematical functions, and is a trumpet soloist in his Jazz ensemble which has performed throughout Chicago and for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Vice President Joe Biden at a recent charity fundraiser.  

Nick is still in high school, steadily working his way through his Statistics class, and learning more and more every day about analyzing the sports that he loves.

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