The Debate Difference

Just wanted to weigh in having seen the second Democratic Primary Debate on CNN. Through much effort I have seen or heard all the debates so far and found an interesting difference between the two major parties when it came to the topics debated.

By and large the Democratic debates focus on issues of action such as health care and education as well as politically charged issues like immigration and Iraq. Meanwhile the Republican debates on MSNBC and FOX had some focus on issues that are largely meaningless and yet taken very seriously by the conservatives in this country including abortion and stem cell research.

It will be interesting to see if the upcoming Republican debate on CNN will be more of the same.

Don’t get me wrong, abortion and stem cells are important, and the Republicans touched on Iraq, immigration, and the like. The problem is that I feel the Democrats as a group were more attentive to options than to unilateral positions. There were some outliers amongst the Republicans like McCain on torture and Giuliani on abortion, too.

I’ll be the first to admit the major parties don’t have a spit of difference on most of what counts. Their differences more often than not are based on the expectations of their constituents and fellow party members as well as the portrayal of their positions by the mass media. Only the unelectable tend to feel free enough to speak out on matters of utmost importance, which is a shame.

Joe Biden has the sense to speak in favor of public campaign financing. The Democrats as a group have the sense to call for universal health care. Ron Paul has the sense to speak for an end to the USA as the hall monitor of the world. John McCain is well known to be against torture in all forms (including weasel-worded torture=’enhanced interrogation techniques’).

If only human cloning were legal and the science was there we could make current-state clones of all their brains and chop them up, meld them together and arrive with a candidate that was sane, consistent, and electable. Of course, that would put an end to these debates and then I’d have nothing to bitch about.

And while I’m on the subject I think I’ll try to draw out of the myriad exactly how many people are watching them… just a sec… The first MSNBC debate (D) had around two and a fourth million. The second MSNBC debate (R) had one and four-fifths million viewers. (The latter number came from a blog notes that more people were watching FOXNews at the time than the actual debate)

I don’t see the FOX (R) debate numbers yet… and I’m guessing it will be a bit before CNNs numbers get up.

To be honest there are some problems with the debates that include a lack of publicizing (if you watch those channels—I don’t—they probably do publicize) and the rules (ie, copyright) that prohibit rebroadcast and general distribution over the internet. You can find short clips on YouTube and so forth, but not the whole show.

MSNBC granted CSPAN the right to rebroadcast their debates. FOX denied CSPAN that right. CNN is supposedly releasing theirs under a Creative Commons license, but that may only apply to their next round of debates later in the summer.

The format of the debates tends to be a little unnerving too. So much time is spent on the moderator trying to tell the candidates their time is expired, to conform to the rules. FOX featured a series of lights and a chime to assist. Maybe next time they’ll go with electrified wristbands and a fog horn. Their time is so damn valuable they want to rigidly dictate the debate out in a two hour commercial-free time-slot and then get back to making money.

Real debates are not a matter of showing yourselves off for the customers. They aren’t so rigid in time and schedule (don’t talk to me about debate competitions, please). Real debates happen out of the need to reach a consensus and last until that consensus or a compromise is achieved. Real debates don’t include a subset of the parties, but include all parties and are open to viewpoints. Real debates don’t have pre-screened questions and don’t play favorites with the front runners.

So, we take what we can get.