I’m unsure as to at what point in time some deity far up in the sky looked down upon human creation and decreed that we must have political debates as often as we change our socks. With this new election cycle already underway it seems like someone holds a debate for the presidential candidates nearly every week.
I remember very clearly all the excitement surrounding UM hosting the first presidential debate in 2004. The university set up a wide variety of events celebrating the occasion and with the descent of the national media on our campus, the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. Unfortunately, the actual debate itself hardly lived up to the expectations of all the pre-debate hype-unless you were a supporter of John Kerry, that debate clearly having been a plus in his column.
So here we are after not only endeavoring upon the earliest possible start date of a presidential election cycle-and the more than 4,000 debates already held by MSNBC-finding ourselves on the eve of the first presidential candidate forum organized by an all-Spanish television network. As if we haven’t already heard enough one-minute responses from each of the 89,000 people running for president from both parties, we can now hear those same one-minute long responses with voiceover by a Spanish-speaking translator.
Now this is all well and good. If the new benchmark of political importance is to be able to organize a presidential debate and have all of at least one party’s candidates show up, then certainly the nation’s Hispanic community has earned that accomplishment. In saying all this I don’t wish to take away from all the hard work put forth by UM and Univision to get this historic event off the ground. I know it wasn’t an easy thing to put together and many people at Univision worked very hard to get it done. Certainly that effort should be applauded. My question, though, returns to my original point: we’ve had so many of these things in the 10 months since the 2006 election that I wonder what benefit is derived from yet another one except that which is borne out of bragging rights?
As the complaints of several of the candidates and many in the news outlets seem to indicate, there are far too many candidates and far too little time for any answer by any of them to be more than just a shadow of a sound bite. After 20 years of watching these, I have yet to learn anything new about a candidate from a debate other than how they perform under a spotlight. Sadly, I believe debates have become nothing more than mere pageantry; just another form of entertainment in a nation that already has too much.
Scott Wacholtz is a graduate student in history. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.