Headline RoundupOctober 26th, 2022

Are Political Debates Still a Worthwhile Tool to Judge Candidates?

Summary from the AllSides News Team

The 2022 midterm election season has sparked reflection across the spectrum on a mainstay of American politics for the last 60 years– the televised candidate debate. With candidates from both sides of the aisle opting to forgo the live face offs, the efficacy of debates as a tool for candidates to express their position on issues, and for voters to evaluate their ballot options, is in question.

Against Debates: Luke Winkie believes the American electorate is too polarized for debates to be meaningful, writing, “debates are not a conversion tool, and they haven’t been for a long time.” This sentiment was echoed by Matt Lewis, who doubts candidate debates are anything more than media spectacle, contrasting the modern style against the traditional, far-slower paced, Lincoln-Douglas debates, writing, “today’s debates are geared for our short attention span era, where audiences can only (at best) digest sound bites.”

For Debates: John Fund believes the live back-and-forth forces candidates to think on their feet, giving voters a peek behind the curtain of the often heavily-curated political image machine. He writes, “debates have their flaws. But compared to the rest of the messaging that goes on in campaigns they are a Mount Olympus of intellectual content. Let’s shame candidates into having more of them.”

For Context: The Republican National Convention voted in April to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates, claiming the group was biased towards Democratic candidates. 

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