Friday, September 26, 2008

The Problem With Debates

Please note--this is written BEFORE the first Obama-McCain debate (in about half an hour). And I will, of course, be watching. But WHY? It's not going to change anything. At least not for me. Let's pretend Obama just rocks, and McCain royally steps on his crank (can I say that on a Christian blog??) So what? It's not like I'm suddenly going to become a pro-choice liberal. No more than if the reverse happens that my lib buddies are going to say, "heck, yeah. Let's cut those top tax rates!" Those of us who have strong principles on the issues are going to vote those principles, period.

But that's not who the debates are for. The US electorate is divided into basically three parts. About 40% are liberal. About 40% are conservative. And then there are the 20% in the middle. (Which is why even the biggest landslides in this country are 60-40.) Many of those 20% are a combination of the ignorant and those without clear principles. We hold these beauty contests for their all-important votes. But, in my worst moments (shades of Alexander Hamilton), I kinda wish those folks who can't be bothered to decide what they think would stay the heck away from voting booths. It's the same thing with the Supreme Court. You wind your way through the federal courts and finally get a writ to appear before the Supremes. You get there, and 4 of the judges are strict constructionists. Scalia and his cronies are going to rule like the founders wrote the text in stone. And 4 are definitely not--John Paul Stevens and three others are going to act like it was written in sidewalk chalk on a rainy day. So you get this far, and your entore legal case falls on whatever "moderate" Anthony Kennedy had for breakfast that day. And why is he the swing vote? Because he has the most muddled, unclear, jumbled grasp of any of them when it comes to a clear legal philosophy. Ginsberg, Souter... I can disagree with. Vehemently. But at least there is a perverse consistency there.

It's always been this way. 48 years ago tonight, Nixon met JFK in the first-ever televised presidential debate. Those who heard it on the radio thought that tricky Dick won. But on TV, JFK just plain looked better. He won the beauty contest, and he won the election. Don't get me wrong--knowing what we know now, we're all happy that JFK won the election. But that's just a heck of a way to pick the leader of the free world.

Oh, well. Gotta go. Wouldn't want to miss the debates. Tomorrow, everyone will be talking about who won and who lost. It won't have any effect on who's right.

No comments: