I have watched political debates religiously in the past. I majored in politics in college and when I was young, I would even take notes to make sure any relevant points, lines or zingers were remembered. That was before the internet, when information wasn’t as readily available and debates were – theoretically – one of the best places to learn about a candidate’s platform. That’s all behind me now as I’ve given up watching political debates.
Recent evenings my Twitter feed would feature a few people watching, reporting and commenting on the gubernatorial debates, and while I mostly ignored the updates, part of me thought it was a mix of nostalgia and naivety to care about the debates. It’s a hobby, like fantasy league football. It could be cynicism talking or the fact that I’m not excited about either Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman, but real information rarely comes out of debates. They are more performance art than a real, back-and-forth debate of ideas. As a mom, I don’t need to turn on the TV to watch childish bickering.
I don’t think that a lot of truth comes out in debates. Instant fact-checking is nearly impossible, allowing an abundance of misinformation, outdated data, and skewed or ignored statistics to support whichever argument a politician makes. Regardless of how clearly spelled out, promises aren’t likely to result in policy changes. So why is this worth my time?
This doesn’t mean debates don’t occasionally produce relevant news. If that happens, I can catch the clips on The Daily Show or YouTube. I don’t regret missing the gubernatorial debates this month, or the bickering over a maid or a derogatory comment made by a campaign aide. It wasn’t worth my time and it wouldn’t have helped me decide who to vote for. I’ll stick with reading up on impartial analysis until debates return to being less scripted forums focusing on real issues and the thoughtful, detailed solutions candidates offer in response.
(Photo/George Nikitin, Dominican University of California, 2010)