“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.” ~ Nelson Mandela
As a former academic debater and debate coach, I try to watch the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates every four years. I feel that argumentation and opposing viewpoints are in the grand tradition of this country. We are a country that gives almost unlimited value to our freedoms of speech. Using that speech to create a dialogue between differing ideas is one of the noblest and useful activities imaginable.
The nobility and utility of that dialogue should therefore — theoretically — reach almost dramatic, earth-shaking proportions when that dialogue occurs between four of the most important people in the United States of America. Those four people, of course, are whatever four individuals make up the main contending parties for President and Vice-President of the United States. (Someday I’d love to say “six individuals,” or even “eight individuals” — but for now, I can only dream of the dissolution of the Two-Party Frat Party that makes up the American political scene.)
I sighed when I wrote that last paragraph because the “theoretically” part — as far as I have ever witnessed — remains just that: theoretical. Every four years, the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates are the opposite of what I hope they will be. They are an exercise in ignoble, useless mudslinging and fodder for pedantic talking heads. They are not dramatic. They do not shake the earth. They are benign. And the earth lies still. Very still.
[Continue reading at Eugene Daily News.]