The Horse Sense Blog compares the nonsense in today's news with good ol' fashioned horse sense

“…I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.… It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.” - Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

"The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

When Debates Really Matter

Here’s the Nonsense:  The GOP primary race has had more than enough debates.  They now serve no further purpose.

Here’s the Horse Sense:  The voters and the country will be hurt as the debates wind down to an end in the GOP primary race.

The candidates are trying to get their messages out and there are basically 3 methods that are used to do that.  Candidates run political ads, the media report on the campaigns of the various candidates, and there are debates between the candidates.

With debates the voters get to see the candidates speaking in their own words, responding to each other and to questions directed at them.  The voters can clearly and directly hear what they are saying.  If candidates only make superficial comments and give sound bite answers they are making a mistake.  The debates give them the only opportunity to give substantive explanations of their positions on issues and their plans for the country directly to the voters.  If they don’t take advantage of it then it is their loss because voters should see through that and reject them as candidates.

Political ads are often misleading and even deceptive.  They are either painting a less than complete, maybe even untrue picture of the candidate or they are tearing down their opponents which only tells us that the candidate knows how to attack someone, not where they stand on the issues or what their specific plans are to address America's problems.

The mainstream media only offer their twisted version of where each candidate stands because their self-appointed purpose is to shape the debate and manipulate the voters’ opinions so that their chosen candidate will win.  The days of objective and investigative journalism are gone when it comes to the mainstream media.

Most voters don’t watch every debate like those of us who deal with it every day.  They usually wait until either something in the news gets their attention and they want to know where the candidates stand on the issues.  Or they wait until closer to the time of their own state’s primary or caucus to start watching.  Debates are the only time that most voters really have an opportunity to listen to the candidates unless they happen to be lucky enough to be able to attend one of their campaign tour events.  And even though debates still only give a limited education, it is better than no education or just relying on the media and the advertising to form their opinions.

Those of us who are involved in commenting, analyzing, and reporting on politics are pretty tired of all the debates this primary season.  I can certainly think of other ways I’d prefer to spend my evenings.  On the other hand, this isn’t about what makes pundits, journalists, and politicians happy.  This is about what is best for America, and what’s best for America is educated voters. 

Most voters learn little on their own about the candidates for which they choose to vote.  Sure, we all have an obligation as citizens to do our homework, but unfortunately most people make their choice for the wrong reasons (i.e.; they’ve always voted for that party, their parents voted for that party, the candidate looks good, the candidate gives them a tingle up their leg, he was a successful businessman, he’s got a great family, etc.).  None of those are measures of a true leader, let alone an analysis of what the candidate may believe are the solutions for the problems the nation faces. 

Recently I watched a political talk show on TV.  They had a panel of people to speak about the GOP primary race.  The host asked one lady which candidate she liked and when the woman named her choice the host asked her why she supported that candidate.  The woman’s response almost knocked me over when she said, “Because he likes to watch the same professional sport I do.  I’m a big fan of that sport.”  That was it?  That was the reason she’d use to choose the next leader of the free world, the most powerful position on the planet?  And this was supposed to be an “expert” that they were talking to?  No wonder America is in such sad shape.

When there are great lapses between debates we even see the damage that the media reporting and attack advertising does.  Attack ads, unfortunately, are very effective probably because people want to believe the worst about people.  Unfortunately in our society once someone is accused of something it rarely matters any longer what the truth is.  What matters is who can scream their side of the story the loudest and longest (which means that the candidate with the most money to drive their message home will probably be the one who benefits).  Only debates have shown to have success in beating money for attack ads and buying the race.

Every voter needs to be as educated as possible.  They need to learn what each candidate stands for and how that will impact the country.  Without voters getting involved and making educated choices our nation faces a crisis on a scale the likes of which we’ve never seen in our history.

The debate formats are poor, at best.  But even so they still allow us to hear the candidates directly.  What is needed is a new format for the debates that creates more substance instead of being a format for the mainstream media to set up the candidates for gotcha questions.  It seems that a format that is not controlled by the mainstream media (including Fox News) or either political party would offer a far better setting for voters to get the most information.

Before we start listening to the pundits, journalists, and politicians that are saying that there are too many debates, we need to stop and think about it from the voters’ perspective.   If we want the best for our country, then we should want voters to be as educated as possible.  And getting their education from media sound bites and slick marketing campaigns is far from the best way for voters to learn any real truth about the candidates.