Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Debates

 Last week, I was one of the tens of millions of people who wasted 90 minutes of their life to watch the presidential debate (it doesn't deserve a capital P).  I wasn't planning on watching, as I assumed I wouldn't hear anything that would alter my perception that Donald Trump is not even a good person, let alone a good president, and that Joe Biden is a competent politician who at least has experienced events in his life that allow him to sympathize with everyday Americans and their problems. But in the end, I felt compelled to do my civic duty and sit through, perhaps, one of the worst debates in  memory.  To call it a shit show would be an insult to shit shows.

Afterwards, and for the next day or so (until it was revealed that Trump had contacted COVID-19), I heard many pundits attempt to identify a winner of the debate, although many merely focused on who didn't win.  More than one commented that it was much easier to merely state that both candidates were losers, but more importantly, that the American electorate was the biggest loser of all.  I certainly felt like I lost 90 minutes of my life I would never get back, and lost an opportunity to hear real solutions for these troubled times.

And America, the United States of America, the greatest country in the history of the world (so called), was revealed to the world as a nation of limited vision, limited leaders, and limited citizenry to have voted in such a way over the past years to have produced two parties offering such a horrific choice.

I am hopeful that there is a way out of this morass, that perhaps we will begin the long climb towards understanding how our democracy works and appreciating its uniqueness and worthiness, so that in the coming decade, we can vote at a higher percentage (will we make 75% this year), and with a far more in-depth understanding of how to choose, and hold accountable, our leaders.  

Our leaders. If they suck, it is no one's fault but our own, and right now, they suck.  Which means, we suck, as citizens, as neighbors, as humans.

I also watched the Vice Presidential debate last night.  It was at least more civil, far less instances of one candidate exceeding their time or talking over the other person.  But very little substance.  It was like watching two political ads playing side-by-side, as each candidate, sometimes answering the question, often bypassing the questions completely, trotted out their talking points.

It was certainly less painful, but still a waste of time.

So, what are we to do?

If the candidates are not going to obey the ground rules as agreed to and set forth by the debate commission, are going to behave like kindergartners on a playground, are going to only answer the questions they want to, or insert their own questions towards their opponent, if debates are all about trying to get the other person to misstep or make an onerous gaffe, than we should stop pretending they are a source of information to make such an important choice, and cancel them entirely.  At this point, they are only good for paid commentators to dissect and spin.

It is time, way past time, for the American public to follow the 5 D's of Dodgeball.

Dodge the rallies and focus on town hall meetings where we, the people, can ask questions that matter to us. When a candidate evades a question, the next citizen should ask it again, and again, and again, if it is necessary to get an answer.

Duck under the appeals to prejudice and hatred.  When a candidate points the finger of blame at a group that is dissimilar to you, remember that people of your demographic could be the next scapegoat.  It is our disparity that is the strength of America. 

Dip, no, immerse yourself in a candidate's actual voting record and actual actions.  When someone says they are concerned about the environment, but acts to reduce car emissions and mileage standards, turns away from enforcing EPA regulations, and seeks discredited science to justify their methods, it means they are weak on the environment.  That is certainly their prerogative, but they should at least own it, or we should at least recognize their hypocrisy.

Dive into civics, which, if you need reminding is, the study of the rights and duties of citizenship. Know the 3 branches of government and their roles and interactions, be able to name your Senators, your representative in the House, and your governor and state reps.  Perhaps even at least half of the Supreme Court Justices.  Who knows how far you might go from there. You might even learn how to pass a bill.   

and finally,

Dodge discussions with people who view disagreement as anti-American or anti-Patriotic, but please, please, engage in discussion with those who can debate the issues with facts, perhaps even disagree completely, but who will respect your opinion (as you do theirs), and agree to disagree.

Supporting the president on an issue you feel strongly about does not make you a sycophant, just as disagreeing with the president on an issue you feel strongly about does not make you a hater of America.

I guess what I am saying is that we need to be better citizens, better educated voters, and above all, we need to NOT follow the example as set forth in the recent debates, especially the presidential one.