Fuck this “debate”

So everyone with a blog or a newspaper is writing about the “debate” held tonight by the Democratic candidates for their party’s nomination for President.  But I’m not.  I didn’t watch it.  Sure, I was at work while it was going on, and could not have done so.  But I have been home for several of them, and proudly ignored them.  Because the “debates” are a sham, about little of substance, and won’t make much of a difference anyway.

We can all remember the vast attention paid to the Presidential debates in 2004, as well as many of them previous.  But the “victories” of Kerry over Bush in the debates then did not matter, and no matter how much we venerate the “You, sir, are no Jack Kennedy” moments of debates, debate results don’t matter much, except for in a single area.  The Swift Boat ads trumped whatever success from the debates Kerry had.

The only way that debates matter, particularly in the primaries, is that it can help determine not who any of us will vote for, but who gets major financial supporters.  Because you can blow it by having a terrible debate performance, and the money will not go to a candidate who has blown it.  And you can maybe pick up some money from a surprisingly strong debate showing; Mike Huckabee has finally seen an uptick in donations after repeated “strong” performances in the eyes of the press.

But that’s all there is.  Right now, most voters nationwide cannot even name a single Republican candidate besides Giuliani.  And besides Sen. Clinton, the results aren’t that much better for the Democrats.  Only a select group cares about the debates, and that isn’t enough to actually shape the opinions of voters.

So why do they have them, and particularly so much of them?  Honestly – to keep you, and me, and the reporters, and the rest of the netroots, distracted from anything that actually has anything to do with governing.  Rep. Rangel is proposing the only long-term solution to the Alternative Minimum Tax that any Democratic representative has articulated.  His solution is of high enough quality that conservative economists like Clive Crook have written positively about it.  But Speaker Pelosi, when asked if the proposal will pass, simply said “No.”  Because issues like how Congress will tax Americans aren’t important enough for our Speaker to give complete sentence answers on.

The strong stance on Sen. Clinton promised by Sen. Obama at the debate, meanwhile, turned into little more than Obama and Edwards hammering Sen. Clinton on “being the candidate that Republicans want to face”.  Whether or not that is true, that is the kind of bullshit issue that people like us and other bloggers comment on.  People seeking to be President ought to have a higher level of critique.  But they don’t tell it to us, supposing they have it.  Because when Sen. Clinton is nominated, everyone wants to be able to play nice again.

This is bullshit, and this is theater.  We are being fed this because it is cost-free compared to giving us substance in either the debates, or in how we are governed.  Another night of bullshit softball questions with a dozen or so “tough” questions which aren’t tough at all, but an opportunity for the moderators to audition for the role of “serious journalist” when the clips are replayed to death on the “news”.

Nothing is shocking about this.  We ought to expect the political parties to feed us this garbage; it is in their interest to do so.  We ought to expect the press who offer these debates to do it for the same reason.

What is shocking is that we in the netroots fall for it hook, line, and sucker.  It is manifestly not in our interest to do so.  That we accept these “debates” as actually being newsworthy reveals us for being much less serious than we pretend we are.  It helps teach candidate consultants like Peter Daou how exactly they can purchase our support at a cost which is completely free (which he is intelligent enough to do without our help).  It ensures that we will not get much improvement in the quality of our Democratic representatives no matter which ones win or lose come next November.

A three card monte dealer keeps moving the cards, even though the game is rigged.  Why should he bother?  Because motion distracts us, and allows us to believe in the illusion that as long as we keep watching, we can overcome the fact that the game is rigged against us.

Which is why I always preferred gambling in casinos.  At least there, they distract me with free scotch.


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    • Turkana on October 31, 2007 at 08:05

    as i said at the orange place, i never watch primary debates, because:

    a) gore’s not yet in (although i doubt he ever will be).

    b) by the time i get to vote, it will be down to hillary and one non-hillary, or just hillary.

    c) how many debates do they need to have?

    d) as a former champion high school and college debater, it’s too painful to watch them never actually debate.

    they’re just warring sound bites, with no actual argumentation. trying to construct a flow chart would be like trying to build a house out of water.

    • Robyn on October 31, 2007 at 12:34
  1. to a dog obedience class and after that a kennel club meeting, and that I didn’t even know that there were debates because my January Club Match flyer that I made and emailed to the club prez probably had items I was going to need to fix?  It was the first time the club had given me a “job” and I didn’t want to be perceived as a careless “f”up and there were debates you say?

    • fisheye on October 31, 2007 at 16:43

    These are simply ‘meet the candidates’ sessions. I have to take issue with your contradictory notions that the dabates are worthless but the electorate aren’t familiar with the candidates.
    The forum at least provides people a view on the candidates articlulation and grasp of the issues at hand, and general political philosophies and foreign policies, do get expressed. That said, the top polled candidates are the most elusive and most funded. And I think the ‘character’ of the candidates comes through. I watch them all. I don’t chatter about ‘stupid water cooler’ moments. They are no ‘gripping’ narratives. The debates offer soft, atmospheric impressions.
    I think your diary amounts to stating all the candidates are worthless actors, pandering to naive public perceptions. How do you cast away the public in a democracy?
    I don’t think the blogosphere falls ‘hook line and sinker’ and the dabate structure and content recieve a lot of ridicule. The reality is, the candidates have to present themselves to, and lead, a vast politically shallow pool with a small deep end.

  2. …stooped to any of this (yet), but I hope he gets in.  Maybe the exercise/tone will improve a bit.  It can’t get much worse (famous last words).

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