More debates mean more informed votes

by Datechguy | February 22nd, 2012

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More debates mean more informed votes

I’ve seen a lot of com­men­tary about the num­ber of GOP debates there have been and how more debates add noth­ing to the pool of knowledge.

To many of our media friends and to some of my fel­low blog­gers today’s debate will be a mat­ter or oblig­a­tion rather than inter­est. They have heard point after point before and are sim­ply look­ing for a moment that might enter­tain to break up the monot­ony of the day. Only the (strange to me) con­tro­versy about Santorum’s speech at Ave Maria Col­lege on good and evil has any poten­tial for them to get any­thing out of it at all.

To me this is not only short-​sighted but miss­ing the entire point(s):

1. Eyes on the prize:

The idea of these debates is to inform the vot­ing pub­lic, not to enter­tain jour­nal­ists or to give an excuse for a drink­ing party. The deal is the can­di­dates will answer ques­tions and the peo­ple vot­ing will have a bet­ter idea of who they should con­sider going with.

2. Who’s watching:

A lot of peo­ple for­get the vast major­ity of the debates took place before Iowa and New Hamp­shire. For the voter in Ari­zona, months away from a deci­sion (and told con­stantly that the race would be over by the time it’s their turn to vote) the early debates were an odd­ity at best and a waste of time at worst. After all why spend 2 hours lis­ten­ing to 10 can­di­dates when half or all of them will be elim­i­nated by the time you get a say?

Now how­ever things are dif­fer­ent. Not only do the peo­ple of Ari­zona and Michi­gan have a huge stake in the out­come of the race at this point, but no mat­ter what the results it is unlikely that the field will be trimmed fur­ther before Super Tues­day so vot­ers from mul­ti­ple states have both an incen­tive to watch and their best chance to see the prospec­tive can­di­dates before they vote.

3. Fil­ter fil­ter who’s got da Filter:

As any­one who pays any atten­tion to the MSM knows, the pre­sen­ta­tion of the can­di­dates is pre­sented through the fil­ter of their own biases, with trims and cuts to play the points the var­i­ous hosts and guests want to empha­sis. Like­wise the Super Pac ads the inter­net ads and the paid adver­tis­ing of the can­di­dates nat­u­rally pro­duce a spin to favor the mes­sage of the desired can­di­date or oppose the mes­sage of the foe.

While said bias does exist in the selec­tion of the ques­tion­ers, such a set­ting gives a voter the best chance to see a can­di­date answer in his own words, unfil­tered and untrimmed ques­tions put to them. As not every­one can attend a polit­i­cal event, nor do peo­ple get to see Q & A ses­sions the impor­tance of see­ing direct and com­plete answers from a can­di­date can’t be overstated.

(Inci­den­tally this is why I tend to video Q & A at events and break it up into the indi­vid­ual ques­tions. Those answers to the ques­tions of the vot­ers say give the most com­plete pic­ture of all).

4. The media unmasked:

For those who are bored by debates proper the var­i­ous pan­els on the Cable net­works talk­ing about it is the most enter­tain­ing part, but it’s also the most reveal­ing for the casual viewer. If you watch a debate itself you know what you saw and what you think of it. When you watch the media directly after a debate mak­ing points totally con­trary to what you’ve seen with your own eyes, it’s a revelation.

Remem­ber all dur­ing the debates the network’s pro­duc­ers are decid­ing which sound bites mat­ter, which will make a good 15 sec­ond clip and what will be the focus of the post-​debate show. Those deci­sion and con­clu­sions might be dia­met­ri­cally oppo­site to your own. When you’ve seen the debates your­self and you see a media per­son obsess­ing on a piece of minu­tia instead of an answer on say jobs or gas prices, you get a crash course in the media spin that hap­pens daily. That increases the chances of you pick­ing up on MSM push­ing a desired meme in the future. See­ing for your­self is the best source of edu­ca­tion for the pub­lic on how the “unbi­ased” press actu­ally works.

Bot­tom line, if you want to moan and groan about debates, fine do so, but I see them as the best tool in the deck to cre­ate an informed and unde­ceived elec­torate, and I have faith that an elec­torate, well-​informed will make the right decisions.

I’ve seen a lot of commentary about the number of GOP debates there have been and how more debates add nothing to the pool of knowledge.

To many of our media friends and to some of my fellow bloggers today’s debate will be a matter or obligation rather than interest. They have heard point after point before and are simply looking for a moment that might entertain to break up the monotony of the day. Only the (strange to me) controversy about Santorum’s speech at Ave Maria College on good and evil has any potential for them to get anything out of it at all.

To me this is not only short-sighted but missing the entire point(s):

1. Eyes on the prize:

The idea of these debates is to inform the voting public, not to entertain journalists or to give an excuse for a drinking party. The deal is the candidates will answer questions and the people voting will have a better idea of who they should consider going with.

2. Who’s watching:

A lot of people forget the vast majority of the debates took place before Iowa and New Hampshire. For the voter in Arizona, months away from a decision (and told constantly that the race would be over by the time it’s their turn to vote) the early debates were an oddity at best and a waste of time at worst. After all why spend 2 hours listening to 10 candidates when half or all of them will be eliminated by the time you get a say?

Now however things are different. Not only do the people of Arizona and Michigan have a huge stake in the outcome of the race at this point, but no matter what the results it is unlikely that the field will be trimmed further before Super Tuesday so voters from multiple states have both an incentive to watch and their best chance to see the prospective candidates before they vote.

3. Filter filter who’s got da Filter:

As anyone who pays any attention to the MSM knows, the presentation of the candidates is presented through the filter of their own biases, with trims and cuts to play the points the various hosts and guests want to emphasis. Likewise the Super Pac ads the internet ads and the paid advertising of the candidates naturally produce a spin to favor the message of the desired candidate or oppose the message of the foe.

While said bias does exist in the selection of the questioners, such a setting gives a voter the best chance to see a candidate answer in his own words, unfiltered and untrimmed questions put to them. As not everyone can attend a political event, nor do people get to see Q & A sessions the importance of seeing direct and complete answers from a candidate can’t be overstated.

(Incidentally this is why I tend to video Q & A at events and break it up into the individual questions. Those answers to the questions of the voters say give the most complete picture of all).

4. The media unmasked:

For those who are bored by debates proper the various panels on the Cable networks talking about it is the most entertaining part, but it’s also the most revealing for the casual viewer. If you watch a debate itself you know what you saw and what you think of it. When you watch the media directly after a debate making points totally contrary to what you’ve seen with your own eyes, it’s a revelation.

Remember all during the debates the network’s producers are deciding which sound bites matter, which will make a good 15 second clip and what will be the focus of the post-debate show. Those decision and conclusions might be diametrically opposite to your own. When you’ve seen the debates yourself and you see a media person obsessing on a piece of minutia instead of an answer on say jobs or gas prices, you get a crash course in the media spin that happens daily. That increases the chances of you picking up on MSM pushing a desired meme in the future. Seeing for yourself is the best source of education for the public on how the “unbiased” press actually works.

Bottom line, if you want to moan and groan about debates, fine do so, but I see them as the best tool in the deck to create an informed and undeceived electorate, and I have faith that an electorate, well-informed will make the right decisions.

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