Where politics is personal not partisan

Preserving the Original Definition of Debate

Civil Debate
Preserving the Original Definition of Debate

Debate has the unbridled ability to make things better, or devolve into nothing more than a shouting match. Let’s hope for the first on Sunday night and beyond.

Merriam-Webster defines debate as:

A contention by words or arguments: as
a : the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure
b : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

Interestingly, “a” speaks to the upcoming second presidential debate on Sunday night, while “b” speaks directly to what the new Practical Politicking is trying to facilitate.

Second Presidential Debate

CNN sets up the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this way:

Donald Trump will have 90 minutes Sunday night to save his presidential campaign, as he faces off against Hillary Clinton in a debate that will cap one of the most extraordinary weekends in American political history.

Republicans — including vice presidential nominee Mike Pence — are criticizing Trump for his vulgar comments about advances he has made toward women that came to light Friday. And an ever-growing list of senators and top GOP officials want Trump replaced on the ticket.

Trump insists he won’t leave the race, and he and allies (those that remain, at least) indicate he’ll go on the attack against Clinton.

Trump eyes debate to rescue faltering campaign.

There’s one thing on everyone’s mind Sunday night in St. Louis at the town hall debate co-moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The unique aspect of Sunday night’s debate is it is not a standard moderator-question format. Rather it is a town-hall forum where the questions will come from members of the audience. This presents a less predictable environment, especially in light of the astounding revelations made public on Friday about comments made by Donald Trump regarding his “star power” and women. While the answers and comments from the candidates are no less important than any other debate, it is actually the questions asked that may well be the better barometer of what is on the minds of voters.

Security Theater and the TSA

Issues that almost assuredly will arise are the tapes of Donald Trump discussing his attitude toward women with Billy Bush, prior to an appearance on a live television show, and the subsequent release of comments made about his own daughter to Howard Stern. Will Trump invoke Bill Clinton’s past transgressions as either a distraction tactic or a backhanded way to justify his demeaning comments? Will Hillary Clinton try to throw Trump off message and invoke a self-immolation that could be devastating to Trump’s candidacy? Finally, will Clinton have to field questions about speech excerpts released by WikiLeaks?

There is no predicting exactly what the audience will focus on, but it is reasonable to anticipate little about larger issues like the economy, jobs, domestic and foreign policy, and terrorism will take the lead. This is likely to be, as town-halls oft are, more about candidate character than actual issues; and there’s no shortage for that opportunity.

Practical Politicking Debate

Our site is less than two weeks into its re-launch, but certain challenges and patterns are forming. The challenges are rather simple – are there voters out there who truly want a place to discuss issues and policies without the vitriol so now common on any social media site? We believe there are, and that when they’ve had a chance to experience that civil debate is not dead – just a little hard to find – they will gladly take part; and for that we will all ultimately be better off.

Why The Odds of a Trump Win Are So Low

The patterns are simply vindication that the polarized echo chambers on both sides of the spectrum are alive and kicking, and not in a good way. In a relatively short time we’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of comments on our article announcements on social media. By far, the vast majority are made without the poster reading the article in question. Many comments have been laced with personal attacks and vulgarity. They are most assuredly not debate, but rather just more extremist diatribe.

Will the presidential debate take on a civil, informative format or will it quickly spiral down into a battle of more and more outlandish statements and personal attacks? We’ll know soon enough.

Will the debate on Practical Politicking begin to elevate the quality of idea exchange between voters in a way that a significant percentage can begin to reverse the stark, and damaging, polarization that has become the regrettable norm in American politics? We hope so. One thing we do know is that we will not allow what we are doing to go down the same path as social media, into the highly polarized shouting match. Now, we just have to see how many people are just as tired of the screaming as we are.


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Tom Dougherty
About Tom Dougherty 23 Articles
Political data expert who detests apathy and respects accountability. President & CEO of Practical Politicking. Headed back to sea soon aboard DANGER ZONE, my Melges 24 racing sailboat.

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