Because I am angry about other things in the news, I’ve decided to leave those subjects alone and to chew on Presidential Debates. If that bores you, please realize that it’s aversion therapy for me.
I’ve been watching and listening to so-called Presidential debates for 55 years. I don’t care what your political or party affiliations are, or seem to be. Unless you are over 65, I have more experience and knowledge than you. Don’t expect me to be impressed with your impassioned social media political diatribes, but I am grateful that you are excited. If you find that irritating or arrogant, it’s all right with me. You’ll grow out of it. And when you’re my age, you can say things like this to younger people and get away with it.
Here are some facts people may want to know or remember about these things called Debates:
1. They are not debates. Any high-school debate student knows this. Real debate requires an initial premise or argument, followed by rebuttal and follow up on a specific subject. There is a discipline and etiquette involved that requires logical thinking and a grasp of facts. Now, here’s the important part: Presidential debates are not the place to go searching for logical thinking and a grasp of facts. What you will find there are “sound bites” pre-scripted by the candidates and their organizations to make the candidate look and sound “presidential.” It is, in essence, theatre. It allows voters the opportunity to suspend disbelief and imagine an individual as President. It makes an impression. And maybe it’s important to point out here that it’s your impression. It doesn’t mean they are necessarily good leaders. And they are not debating.
2. Presidential power is limited. About ninety-nine percent of what you hear promised during a Presidential debate will not happen. Other than “executive orders,” which generally affect government employees, a President can’t change things with a wave of his hand. That requires a working and agreeable Congress, regardless of their party. If you are truly interested in laws, policy and the effect they have upon you, inspect your Congressmen and Senators with a fine-tooth comb. The President just pretends he is responsible for these things, and usually comes out for the curtain call.
3. The real power of a President is in his or her leadership abilities. Rather than just throw the word “leadership” at you, let me be specific. They must be able to persuade other people (that means the Congress and you and me) to feel a certain way, or to take action. To be effective as President, they must have the ability to motivate others. They ought to inspire us, but that’s just a secret hope on my part.
I don’t like the way the political game is played today. The people I see in the political news do not resemble my friends here, in my city. That’s probably because I know these people and care about them. Some of my very best friends support political ideas that are completely opposite of my own. But the things we really want are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In many cases, our disagreements are simply a difference of opinion about how to get those things.
So: as far as Presidential debates and elections go, support the person you feel can do the best job of motivating other people. It might also be wise to note that Lincoln didn’t “look presidential.”