Tag Archives: debate

Introducing the American Civic Debate Union: first event addresses the Electoral College

American Civic Debate Union logoWe need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own.

For decades I have toyed with the idea that we could use a civic forum for popular debate, an organization that would make it possible for communities to discuss the issues of the day in ways that would spark thought and reflection, perhaps enabling better decision-making come Election Day. This idea has grown stronger over the past 20 years, as the combined corrosive mechanisms of partisan tribalism, cable media and, worst of all, the Internet and social media seemed to find new and better ways of tearing society apart, making us dumber and more hateful in the process.

I broached the idea recently with friends and colleagues and their response convinced me that now was the time to give it a try. So I have founded what I’m ambitiously calling the American Civic Debate Union. Our first event will be held next Sunday here in Denver, and it will feature me squaring off with my good friend Dr. Frank Venturo over the question of whether the US ought to do something, once and for all, about the Electoral College. If so, what? Continue reading Introducing the American Civic Debate Union: first event addresses the Electoral College

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“Binders full of women”: Mitt finally lands a zinger for the ages

Remember back before the first debate when Mitt let us know he was working on his zingers? Yep. Clearly he wanted to land a punch that would push him over the top in the public consciousness, score the iconic rhetorical knockout blow that people would still be pointing to decades later. He wanted to be like Ronnie:

There you go again.

He wanted to be like Lloyd:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Finally, after so many months on the campaign trail, Mitt landed his zinger.

Frankly, I was staggered at how quickly Mitt’s iconic “binders full of women” remark caught fire. Within an hour or two we had #BindersFullofWomen on Twitter, BindersFullofWomen.com, the hysterical Binders Full of Women Tumblr pageMittsBindersFullofWomen.com and several Facebook groups, one of which had 70,000 likes by the end of the debate. It happened so fast I found myself wondering how these people had known it was coming, because clearly they had the sites locked and loaded and were just waiting for Romney to utter his instant classic.

The problem, of course, is that when Mitt finally pulled the trigger, he had the gun pointed at his own balls. Which is fitting, I suppose, given how much time he had dedicated in recent months to debating with his own positions.

This is all funny, and yeah, check back in 50 years. If you’re still around, do a Google search (or whatever the equivalent is at that point in our future) for “memorable presidential debate moments.” You’ll certainly find Ronnie’s dismissal of Jimmy Carter and Lloyd Bentsen’s famous VP debate bitch-slap of Dan Quayle. But you’ll also find Admiral Stockdale:

Who am I? Why am I here?

You’ll find Dick Nixon sweating like a hog in the afternoon sun on an especially warm August day in Tucson. You’ll find Jerry Ford explaining that Poland is completely independent of Soviet influence.

And you’ll find binders full of women, the awkward moment where a candidate who has lived his entire life out of touch with regular men and women tries desperately to show that he really does get it. And only proves, ever more conclusively, that he doesn’t. Turns out Hofstra was merely the latest stop in the long and comical Mitt Romney, Man of the People® Tour.

This is what happens when an election process is driven by style instead of substance. Meticulous attention is devoted to appearances, to how the candidate looks, to how he or she appears to be in command (or not) of the stage. Abraham Lincoln might be carved into Mt. Rushmore, but his ugly ass couldn’t get elected dog catcher in 2012.

What is actually said matters, but not because of its relationship to facts. No, every potential word is tested for how it might be perceived, for its emotional charge, for its effectiveness with key demographics. Words are uttered not because they’re true, but because they persuade. And we have fully abandoned any notion that persuasion is a function of truth. If we cared about facts and the truth, we’d subject candidates for Leader of the Free World® to considerably more pointed questioning, wouldn’t we? We wouldn’t let their handlers dictate the process top to bottom.

But we don’t. Campaign 2012 isn’t about policy, it’s about pwning.

Meanwhile, outside the debate hall, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, a woman who actually does have some substantive ideas to discuss, was arrested. Because she didn’t have the proper credentials. One ought to wonder why somebody who will be on 85% of the ballots in the election couldn’t score the proper credentials.

So congrats to the Romney camp for finally getting of a zinger that’s destined for immortality. And good for us, the dumbass culture picking our leaders using process that looks like it was designed by Kardashians.

Or not. This is how Cartel Democracy works, I guess…

Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

America’s democratic ideal doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and in these cases it feeds our cynicism to the point where we’re tempted to conclude that the very possibility of true freedom is a sham. I know whereof I speak, because there are few people out there more soaked in bile than I am.

Still, this whole “marketplace of ideas” is a marvelous concept. Perhaps the most marvelous concept in history. Drawing on the Miltonian belief that if people are allowed to enter the agora and freely state their cases, then “the truth will out” (that is, an educated and informed citizenry will unerringly perceive the truth and that weaker ideas will be disregarded in favor of stronger ones), our nation’s founders crafted a Constitution that assured people the right to voice their opinions, free from government intrusion. Continue reading Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

Study proves Biden won debate by more than a full grade level

Hey, America: are your politicians stupid or do they just think you are? Check this new analysis of Thursday night’s “debate”:

An analysis carried out by a language monitoring service said Friday that Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at a more than ninth-grade level and Sen. Joseph Biden spoke at a nearly eighth-grade level in Thursday night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates.

Which proves my initial take right, I guess. Continue reading Study proves Biden won debate by more than a full grade level

Post-debate wrap: Palin, low standards and the new feminism

I’m sitting here taking in what the collected punditry has to say in the aftermath of tonight’s Veep Debate. These aren’t direct quotes, but most of the comments go something like this: