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Finally, a series of presidential debates that extended beyond campaign slogans and cheesy commercials. This year we witnessed true ideological differences between the incumbent and his challenger, solidifying the decision for their electorate. Ultimately,
The philosophical choice Americans have between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama couldn’t be clearer.
Seriously. There was genuine clash between the candidates, not political posturing or dodging of questions. Both sides dug into the other side without hesitation, framing their positions firmly against the other. And both campaigns articulated (or failed to articulate) their worldviews. Allow me to elaborate on these reasons these debates mattered so much and will help the electorate make their final decision for the presidency.
1. There was clash.
In academic debate, “clash” is a popular term. Questions need to be answered; debaters need to address the opposition. When the candidates simply restate what their campaign positions are, they’re like two ships passing in the night. Fire away, guys! Don’t waste the viewers’ time restating what your campaign ads already say. Go at it.
Last night’s debate was perhaps the most boring. Why? Because of lack of clash. Mitt Romney largely agreed with Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Because of this, Obama looked awkward attacking Mitt Romney. “Attacking me isn’t a policy” was a zinger that rang at the end of the evening. That said, there wasn’t much clash. Therefore, it was sort of a snoozer.
Compare that with the other three debates (Biden/Ryan included). Whew! There was little time wasted and the candidates went after each other quite aggressively. I like clash where clash needs to happen, and I believe this year it needed to happen.
2. There was drama.
So much is on the line for both candidates that the anxiety was felt. I literally was on the edge of my seat several times over the four weeks of debating, and I looked forward to every single week like a sporting event. It was awesome. Consider:
- Debate #1: So much was on the line for Romney, so much overconfidence for Obama. The latter got clocked and changed the projections totally for the election. The game was on.
- Debate #2 (the VPs): Biden was sent in to save his boss from failure, and he came across as a joker. Ryan shined as a winner, and the polls leaned heavily his direction.
- Debate #3: Obama came back swinging, even having a tit-for-tat script with moderator Candy Crowley. It was low, and those who were watching closely saw it. It was like a biased call from a ref.
- Debate #4: Only the Obama campaign is ignoring the polls. Obama needed to keep swinging, but this time appearing agitated and worried. Romney stumbled and conceded much, but that didn’t necessarily make him look foolish.
3. There was articulation.
I appreciated the reiteration throughout the debates that there are two philosophical differences between the candidates. Presidential debates often get too rooted in policy and fail to highlight the philosophical. Why did I appreciate this? Because there are philosophical differences between these candidates. Perhaps greater differences than ever before. Obama’s a liberal and leans strongly toward social reforms that grow government; Romney is a conservative businessman and governor who leans toward shrinking government and a liberated middle class. Now that the debating is over, the outcome is clear:
Americans have a clear choice between continuing the policies of the past four years, or changing direction to a Romney/Ryan vision for the future.
So, I’d argue that the mission of the debates was accomplished. We Americans get to deal with the outcomes. Fairly and honestly, the debates exposed the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates. We get to think through and decide.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share them below.