Intellectual NASCAR

Tonight, the debate between Clinton and Trump was televised.  And, like most television, it was more likely to entertain than to inform.  Many folks have made up their mind already, and all this could do was reinforce what they already decided.

If anything, these “debates” (micromanaged to the last detail), are essentially “intellectual NASCAR”, where some folks aren’t looking to see the race (and attendant strategies) or the debate issues, but to look for the big gaffe, the big crash, the intellectual-wrapped-around-a-telephone-poll blunder that shows that the other side is ill-equipped to lead, govern, or even put two coherent sentences together.

Frankly, given the rhetoric on both sides, it seems like a waste of time to listen to a few debates.  Politicians, as much as we might dislike many of them, are human beings, and are bound to make mistakes, missteps, and gaffes.  It happens.

There were seven (!) Lincoln-Douglass debates (and they weren’t even presidential ones, at that).  In them, one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other spoke for 90 minutes, and then the other spoke for 30 minutes, as a ‘rejoinder’.   Can you imagine, in this age of twitter and soundbites, any candidate speaking coherently for 90 minutes, and better yet, someone coming back for 60 minutes, or even 30 minutes?

Although the modern format of debates has changed considerably, there are three presidential debates, and only one vice-presidential debate.  My guess is that these won’t change much, we won’t learn much, and at best, the folks who are watching will be looking for the big intellectual car crash, than learning anything new.


  • What sort of debate format would get us to really know the candidates?  How could we make the debates work any better?   How about even small changes, like having the candidates sit down?
  • How many debates should there be?  My guess is one per week (or every two weeks) that had a particular topic to be discussed (the economy, defence, health and education, commerce, the environment) would get us a far deeper understanding of things.
  • Is this entire thesis wrong?  Do the debates tell us things we don’t already know?
  • Have you ever seen a debate and been swayed by the other side’s oratory or arguments?
  • Are debates an anachronism, given the level of information that each candidate gives out and discusses?



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