It’s not as if winning the debate last Wednesday means that Romney will be our next president, but it was surprising that virtually everyone gave the defeat to President Obama. The real questions that should be asked, however, were never seriously considered by the public: apart from winning the three ring circus that is the debate, who will make a better president, and what are the substantive issues on which you base that judgment. Much has been made recently about the war of ‘facts’ thrown around by both candidates. Both are guilty of exaggeration at the very least, and outright falsehoods in the extreme (Romney never said he would gut Medicare). The issue is so critical that it made the cover of the Oct. 15 Time magazine.
|CSULA Grad Student Charles Ortiz|
All of that aside, we’ve set out to get a series of snapshots of people’s thoughts on how the debate turned out and how it affected them. Even for most students, the presidential debate has become an expected element of the election, even though they are mentioned nowhere in the constitution, nor have they been a part of the scene for very long. Most historians consider the Lincoln Douglas debates in the middle of the 19th Century the quintessential debates, with two stirring orators, who had a deep respect for each other, really got down to the ideas that would make a good president.
Run the calendar up to the present, and you are left with Kennedy v. Nixon, and essentially every election from Jimmy Carter on. Students, of course, may not remember those earlier debates, but they are convinced of their value and importance. CSULA Charles Ortiz noted that his interest began when he saw recordings of the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960, and he wouldn't think of missing them ever: they give a side of the candidate that on the street glad-handing and baby-kissing never does.
I still wonder, though: is this any way to elect a president?
2012 General Election Debate Schedule
List assembled by the 'AOL/Patch' news organization
Museum of Broadcast Communications
Rich interactive source of information on the history of presidential debates.
Discovery Channel History of Debates
Engaging and compelling history produced by 'Discovery' cable channel.