Debates: What are debates anyway?
When we think of debates, sometimes we think of/remember our high school debates, which occurred in many/most high schools. But, we are also drawn to the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, which helped to define the concept for political purposes. So, what were the Lincoln-Douglas debates?
The debates (also known as The Great Debates of 1858) were a series of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois, and incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, the Democratic Party candidate. At the time, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures; thus Lincoln and Douglas were trying for their respective parties to win control of the Illinois General Assembly. The debates previewed the issues that Lincoln would face in the aftermath of his victory in the 1860 presidential election. Although Illinois was a free state, the main issue discussed in all seven debates was slavery in the United States.
In agreeing to the official debates, Lincoln and Douglas decided to hold one debate in each of the nine congressional districts in Illinois. Because both had already spoken in two—Springfield and Chicago—within a day of each other, they decided that their "joint appearances" would be held in the remaining seven districts.
The format for each debate was that one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute rejoinder. The candidates alternated speaking first. As the incumbent, Douglas spoke first in four of the debates.
The debates in Freeport, Quincy, and Alton drew especially large numbers of people from neighboring states, as the issue of slavery was of monumental importance to citizens across the nation. Newspaper coverages of the debates were intense. Major papers from Chicago sent stenographers to create complete texts of each debate, which newspapers across the United States reprinted in full, with some partisan edits. Newspapers that supported Douglas edited his speeches to remove any errors made by the stenographers and to correct grammatical errors, while they left Lincoln's speeches in the rough form in which they had been transcribed. In the same way, pro-Lincoln papers edited Lincoln's speeches, but left the Douglas texts as reported. After winning a plurality of the voters but losing in the legislature, Lincoln edited the texts of all the debates and had them published in a book. The widespread coverage of the original and the subsequent popularity of the book led eventually to Lincoln's nomination for President of the United States by the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago.
In one text, summarizing Lincoln’s position is the following, in which one is drawn to thinking about our current President, King Donald I:
“That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”
I submit that the current debates are of similar import to those debates in the 1850s. One problem in the current series of debates is that we have not two candidates debating one another, with each candidate being given 90 minutes on one topic, but instead 20 some candidates are given a few minutes (8-10 divided into tiny segments) to discuss numerous topics potentially as grave as slavery, with moderators barely in control of the candidates.
Each of the two debates featured ten candidates, all of whom had qualified for the debates by virtue of having received 65,000 contributors to their campaign (just how Marianne Williamson ever found 65,000 people to support her is a marvel of present-day TV-Theatrics). We tried watching both debates, but could not watch for more than about 40 minutes. It was simply too depressing, with all the shouting theatrics.
The “debate” topics were monumentally important: Climate change, education, employment opportunities for the population, health care, immigration. These are topics that resonate throughout the land, although we seem to have widening gaps both in our technical understanding of the actual underlying issues, and the means by which we will be able to survive throughout the remainder of this century. But think of that. We had a total of two-hours each for the two debates, with each having ten candidates vying for at least equal time. So, were we actually to grant equal time, that means that each candidate would have 12 minutes to discuss the topics. And yeah, I would think that climate change deserves at least 2-3 minutes of our time, huh? And the equal time thing has to take into account those periods when virtually all ten of the candidates stood yelling into their respective microphones, vying for attention.
Now, suppose instead, that we had, say six candidates, divided into two debate sessions, such that each debate had only three debaters, and we still had two hours, well that might yield actual information to the viewers. I would submit that the two debates, as weird as they were, revealed that we only really have maybe six potentially viable candidates, and that the rest should go back home and decide which of the six they might be willing to support. So, who should go home? I would submit that the following candidates are done, and they should stop wasting our time and the peoples’ money (contributors’ money). Return to your day jobs and get off the stage. Who are they?
I was especially disappointed in Kirsten Gillibrand, who was one of my early potential favorites. But I think she has failed to distinguish herself so far in this campaign, and certainly failed to do so in the pseudo-debate. I think perhaps, Senator Gillibrand ought to continue her career as a US Senator and be satisfied therein.
So, who are the six potentially viable candidates, in my humble opinion? Here is my list, in order of importance:
“Six you say? Then why list seven?”
A fair question. My really big doubt is Joe Biden. I think, however much Joe leads in polls, he has thus far failed to capture me as the candidate of choice. I think he has been a wonderful member of our nation. He certainly contributed to the Obama Administration, which was a glowing tribute to America, especially following on the heels of a near total disaster with Shrub as our Commander in Chief, and his merry band of global thugs plotting war by lying to the American people. But my sense is that Biden is done, really was done by the end of the Obama Administration. That was his proper time to retire into the sunset, and join Barack Obama as a successful VP in a distinguished presidency. Joe has now been riding on that reputation, but he has nothing left for our Nation, and it is time, perhaps past time for him to retire. Could he defeat Donald Trump? Well, maybe, and that is why he remains in the battle. But, , as he has noted in the past, it may well be time to “pass the torch” to a new generation. Joe, and certainly Bernie are of my generation—well even I am older than their generation, but, you get my point. It really is time for a post-WW II, post-Korea, post-Vietnam, and even post-Iraq generation. We need desperately leaders who understand what is at stake with:
· Global Climate Change
· Racial & Gender Equality
· Income inequality
· Health Care
· Crumbling Infrastructure
· Global Warfare
These in my humble view are the dominant issues facing the nation, and our increasingly endangered world. We need leaders who can act boldly, but intelligently and with a moral and ethical dimension. Our current leader is incapable of acting because he lacks the intellect and has no moral or ethical dimension. He reacts, much as a bad-tempered four-year old might react to challenges. He is utterly, completely unprepared to lead our nation to successfully address/resolve any of the major issues facing us.
And he is highly likely to embark on a catastrophic war, or other cataclysmic undertaking. I worry greatly that Americans still support him, and could well re-elect him. I fear that re-electing Trump could well spell the end of our great American experiment in self-governance. His supporters continue to say, “He is a great president”, despite the fact that he lies every time he opens his mouth and words come tumbling out. How/why his supporters continue to cheerlead for him is quite beyond my ken. It may be that we are already at the end of our great nation. I hope not. We will know in 2020 whether we will be able to dig ourselves out of the many holes he has dug us into.
Again, I would implore our potential voters, especially of the younger set, to get their asses in gear and ready yourselves to vote against Donald Trump. Hopefully, you will be able to say, “I’m FOR someone”, rather than simply, “I’m AGAINST Trump”. But if the latter is all you can muster, then so be it and go for it.
In the meantime, all you folks who have been pining for this job, but are utterly unprepared for it, kindly go back to your day jobs. You are just confusing us poor folks back home. We need you to stop yelling at one another and begin chatting/yelling about Donald Trump’s many grotesque flaws. He needs to leave and soon.
So, for the 6-7 of you who are left, debate on, but never forget who you are running against-Donald Trump. Your Democratic candidates are not the enemy, Donald Trump is the chief evil-doer and needs to be ousted. Act like you know that. And by the way, Kamala was right. Stop the food fights.