Debatable

October 16th, 2008 by Editor B

Since I didn’t get to sound off on these issues on the radio, maybe I’ll just give vent here.

I watched all four of the so-called debates. Mostly they were pretty boring. I thought the last one was the most interesting, but all in all they were disappointing.

The debates frustrate me. Once upon a time they were run by a non-partisan group, the League of Women Voters. But for the last twenty-odd years they’ve been put on (and we’ve all been put on) by a bipartisan commission. The debates are controlled by the two major parties — two of the most powerful political entities in the world — and as one might expect, they are constructed to serve the interests of those parties.

And, face it, those parties are old and entrenched. Yet they’re both trying to sell a message of change. The mind boggles. But I digress.

What frustrates me in the debates is what frustrates me in our national political dialog: The scope is too narrow. The dialog is so tightly circumscribed that we have come to examine and contrast minute differences of policy between Democrats and Republicans, magnifying these differences so greatly that it’s easy to forget that there is a much wider range of possibilities.

To some extent this magnification is justified. The Presidency of the United States is perhaps the most powerful office in the world. I acknowledge that even the smallest differences can have huge effects on all of us.

But surely we are impoverished by not allowing a broader range of political dialog.

A friend sent me a link to this website, which offers a fascinating linguistic analysis of the debates, plus the best use of Wordle I’ve seen yet.

Now for some minutiae. Here are some random observations I posted up on Twitter during the last debate, in reverse chronological order:

so if you serve in the military you shouldn’t have to take “all these tests” other teachers do? McCain is off the map 9:22 PM Oct 15th from mobile web

McCain’s talking about civil rights – freedom is on the march! he even mentions New Orleans 9:20 PM Oct 15th from mobile web

Columbia is our largest agricultural importer. does that include coca products? 8:52 PM Oct 15th from web

what if Obama expressed admiration for Palin’s good looks? wouldn’t that be a hoot? or if McCain said he had the hots for Biden? oh yeah 8:45 PM Oct 15th from web

McCain accuses ACORN of “maybe destroying the fabric of democracy” — are you kidding me? wow 8:36 PM Oct 15th from web

so somebody spent *more* on a campaign before Watergate? who dat? 8:29 PM Oct 15th from web

you’re gonna make me get my pen out. don’t make me get my pen out, biiiatch. 8:26 PM Oct 15th from web

Xy agrees, Obama’s support for pay-for-performance does not help him with teachers. pay-for-performance doesn’t motivate her. 8:24 PM Oct 15th from web

why isn’t McCain wearing a flag pin? Did Obama steal McCain’s flag pin as part of his class warfare? 8:20 PM Oct 15th from web

McCain is accusing Obama of “class warfare.” hahahaha. oh that’s rich, no pun intended. 8:14 PM Oct 15th from web

6 Responses to “Debatable”

  1. Stacey Says:

    I am a teacher too, and I agree, pay for performance doesn’t motivate me either.
    How does McCain think that Sarah Palin is an expert on autism because she has a 6 month old with Down syndrome?
    How does fighting in the military make you exempt from teacher tests? That was the weirdest thing. I didn’t see the debates until I watched it on Tivo tonight. I didn’t believe it when someone told me that at work today.

  2. David Says:

    I agree that the two party system is frustrating. However, Duverger’s law is a principle of political science which predicts that constituencies that use winner-take-all systems will become two-party systems, given enough time. That was illustrated perfectly in the Canadian national elections which occured on the 14th.

    Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative party, retained the Prime Minister position. The Conservative party won 37% of the vote. However, the Conservative party is the ONLY right-leaning party. There are four left-leaning parties. In total, they won 62% of the vote. Just none of them came in first. So 62% of Canada favors a left of center government, but they’re stuck with a conservative Prime Minister because their vote is fractured. There have already been calls for, effectively, a two-party system.

    I think the real culprit is choosing the head of state with a winner-take-all system. If Canada chose its leader through multi-party coalition, requiring the formation of a majority coalition, then there’s no question the Prime Minister would be the head of the Liberal party. (Canadians like obvious party names.)

    Of course, the U.S. has a winner-take-all system, too. It also occurs to me that once such a system entrenches a two-party system it becomes very easy for the country to become polarized, which we’ve observed.

  3. David Says:

    Also, McCain referred to New Orleans as an example of the success of charter schools.

    The phrase “class warfare” is one the GOP has Orwellified. Bush used it the same way in both his campaigns. They use it any time a Democrat seeks to address social inequities. By using a phrase that evokes socialist revolution, the GOP hopes to obfuscate the fact that one of their chief strategies is to play the upper classes against the lower.

  4. Garvey Says:

    Palin’s nephew has autism. This doesn’t make her an “expert,” but I bet she knows more than 90% of Americans about it and the issues. If you have a relative with autism, you’d know this.

    Pay-for-performance is one of those things that laypeople think is interesting and cool. Like increased testing, etc. Believe it or not, a majority of parents want MORE standardized testing, not less. Teachers rarely agree with the elected or self-appointed “geniuses” who come up with these legislated “reforms.” This is simple pandering.

  5. lemming Says:

    The league of Women Voters no longer runs the debates because women no longer joined the League and thus no longer ave any respect or clout.

    No one steps up to fill the gap responsibly, we get what we deserve.

  6. b.rox » Blog Archive » Truncated Scale Says:

    […] friend recently commented on how our country is politically polarized. Yes, I feel that — but I also feel that many of […]

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