The Truth About Political Debates


There was a time, long ago, when candidates were forced to go to open air venues to have their debates in public places so people could take their measure.  In the early 20th century, a man named James Michael Curley burst upon Massachusetts politics.  At the time, 1910, he was simply trying to become a U.S. Representative for the 10th district, a seat no Democrat in anyone’s memory had ever held, and no one expected that to change.  But the 10th district had a heavy Irish population and other new immigrant groups.  Curley was a charismatic Irishman who had grown up poor but had worked in the wards under the bosses of the day.  He was an excellent speaker, never at a loss for words.  Curley was anything but a household name but at those debates he skillfully used his opponents own words against him.  He could turn a phrase and get his audience to identify with him.

The Brahmins of Boston, the well-entrenced Republican establishment, were outraged.  In  a later election when Curley ran for mayor of Boston, he said that on his first day of office he would turn the Boston Common into a parking lot.  Of course this was only a slap at the landed gentry who still failed to recognize the trials of the working class.

But it was not until 1960 and the Kennedy – Nixon debate, sometimes referred to as “the checkers debate,” that politics embraced television, and it has been downhill ever since.  Political parties write the speeches, figure out how to portray political positions, and dictate how any given answer needs to be given.  These are not debates at all but well-scripted advertisement.

I have a pretty good sense of who Barack Obama is and who Mitt Romney is, having lived in Massachusetts during his governorship.  I also have a pretty good idea of who Scott Brown is but, sadly, I do not have much of an idea who Elizabeth Warren is.  Something that is very important to me, family, seems to have been avoided by Warren making me very suspicious of her, and pushing me, a Democrat, into the position of likely voting for her Republican opponent.

It was during their last so-called debate that I came to this decision.  I found both of them to be rather disingenuous.  Each seemed to be responding to questions with very well-scripted answers that seldom properly responded to the question on the floor.  Frequently each simply side-stepped the question and said whatever they felt was important rather than simply answer the question at hand.  But this is our present state of politics at the national level.

It is my firm belief that when these politicians speak we are not hearing what they really think but rather what their handlers, those nameless people behind the scenes, want us to hear and nothing more.  The question on every American’s mind when they hear a politician in one of these so-called debates say something that appears to exactly reflect their views, ask yourself if they are simply playing up to you and in reality have another agenda entirely.  I suspect, regardless of party affiliation, the latter is closer to the truth than the former.  We need to go back to the days when two guys would stand on a stage, say their peace without anyone prompting them as to what is proper and what is not.

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