Thursday, February 2, 2012


Once, back in college, I was asked to serve as a debate judge for a junior college debate tournament.  I listened carefully, took notes, and made my decision based on who I thought was right.  Afterward I learned I did it all wrong.  I was supposed to pick the winner according to who made the most dramatic presentation, who zinged his opponent the most times, and who had a rebuttal for the most statements made by his opponent whether the rebuttal was right or even made sense. With the plethora of GOP debates on every channel and discussed on every forum, I feel like I've gone back in time.  Only these debates are even more weird; often the moderator seems to be one of the debaters and his purpose seems to be jabbing the candidates.  In my lifetime debates have become a major component of the candidate selection process, but I haven't noticed that the good debaters have been particularly good presidents. The one thing these debates have convinced me of is that debates are a poor way to pick a candidate for a post as important as President of the United States.  

I spent some time as a newspaper reporter and I'll admit it's more fun to write about kooks, oddballs, rule breakers, and quirky or outrageous people than calm, peaceful, hard-working individuals. Face it, they're more fun to read about too, but are these "interesting characters" who we really want to be our leaders and hold the power of a US President? Reporters learn, mostly through experience, that people who yell the loudest for a cause often have secrets and exposing secrets is a major triumph in journalistic circles. A good journalist should go after the story behind the story, cross check facts, and dig a little deeper than the average person.  But here I'm seeing a failure of honest, even-handed reporting, especially by the networks.  I'm getting awfully tired of little stacked panels and interview questions that reveal more about the interviewer's bias than about the candidate's character and platform.  

To be honest, I don't like caucuses.  I don't like the disproportionate amount of power placed in so few hands.  I know anyone can attend a caucus, but in reality they're poorly advertised and the general population fails to see their importance since they don't really vote for candidates and they're held so far ahead of elections most people aren't really interested yet.  Which brings up another peeve of mine; the campaign process starts way too early.  While most people are focusing on Christmas, we're supposed to be considering candidates?  States who hold January and February caucuses and elections receive disproportionate attention and higher value is placed on choices made there than in the rest of the country.  I understand that candidates can't give every state the attention they presently give to the first handful of states, but it would certainly be more fair to hold regional elections giving the total electorate a chance to thin out the candidates rather than using the flawed and biased present system. 

I've always wondered what kind of ego trip compels a person to be a third party candidate or to stay in the race long after it  has become obvious that person has become a joke or the laughingstock of the country.  Usually these people simply become spoilers, securing just enough votes to cripple a major candidate and ensuring the election of a possibly major, but inferior candidate. I wonder too about the people who vote for an extremist candidate who has no chance of winning.  Too often their allegiance to what they consider a principle results in the election of the person the most distant from their supposed principles. 

I've been active in politics all of my adult life.  I vote.  I attend caucuses.  I've been a delegate (state and county).  I've held party offices.  I've worked on campaigns.  I've been a legislative page. I even won an election myself to a town council. Still, the things that bothers me the most about our political process is the number of people who don't care, the number who are uninformed, the ones with short memories concerning a candidate's past poor choices, biased and bigoted voters, and the number of voters who value freedom so little they vote on a whim or not at all.


Anna Buttimore said...

I don't know what caucuses are - pretty sure we don't have them here, unless they are called something different - and candidates are not allowed to campaign until six weeks before the election. But it tends to mean we don't know very much about the person we're voting for come the day. Which is probably the way they like it.

Gale Sears said...

Amen, Jennnie.