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A Millennial Reaction to the Debate: This Is the Best We Can Do?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

As the second presidential debate drew to a close the one thing I found myself thinking more than anything else was, “is this really the best we can do?”

            After a fairly interesting first debate and a mildly uncomfortable VP debate, I actually had high hopes for the productivity of Tuesday’s event. I was however disappointed. Despite President Obama’s much improved performance in round two, I think it’s safe to say neither candidate really stood out as a clear winner after the town-hall episode.
            The selected voters had some interesting and insightful questions; however, neither Governor Romney nor President Obama seemed particularly inclined to answer them. Instead both candidates fell back into familiar side-step routines and parroted over and over again the same answers and points they have given a dozen times before at the conventions, at rallies, and at the first debate.
            One particularly good example of this indirect approach to answers was on the issue of inequality in women’s pay. Obama talked about his mother “hitting the glass ceiling” and then spun the question into a tangent about education and making opportunities for America’s youth. Romney discussed his experience as governor when he reportedly saw too many male cabinet candidates and sent out his staff to find “binders of women.” In the eight minutes or so the topic was on the table neither candidate actually acknowledged how he would ensure women would be paid the same as their male counterparts.
            Thankfully for the entertainment of the TV audience, what the debate lacked in fresh responses, it made up for in combative tension. Thanks to the President’s painstaking efforts to make up lost ground after debate one, a stage that encouraged the candidates to roam around freely, and the selection of a moderator who was not afraid to shout over the at-times over-zealous men, viewers got the unexpected bonus of speculating whether or not the debate was going to turn into a boxing match. On several occasions the conversations devolved into shouting contests between Romney, Obama and moderator Candy Crowley because none of them were capable of keeping answers to a consistent time (despite the presence of multiple digital count-down clocks) or conceding an argument.
            The other source of the aforementioned tension was the number of times the candidates called each other liars. Each of these incidents ended up with both men staring each other down or one of them speaking out of turn and/or stomping over the other’s comments. I know this is not the first time a debate has ever gotten heated, but there is something disconcerting about the number of times both men accused their opponent of lying and then claimed the exact opposite to be true. It doesn’t really matter whose allegations were right, because in the end one of them must be lying and we have little way to know which one it is. Personally, I think it’s both and a fair assessment would be that they were each lying half the time, which doesn’t make me feel any more confident going to the polls in three weeks. 
            It baffles me how as voters in a country of over 311 million people, the two ‘best candidates’ we come up with every four years for our most important job are never really that great. Watching these two men dance around the issues and shout each other down like an old, angry couple Tuesday night did not exactly instill me with a great sense of hope for the next four years. And if the voters asking the questions at that debate were all truly undecided, I doubt many of them had their minds made up by the time they left, unless of course they decided not to vote after all.   
 



Read other student thoughts on the debate at the Roosevelt Insitute's Next New Deal blog
 
 
cover photo courtesy of MSNBC
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