Election Season Debates: A Modest Proposal

My only contribution, thus far, to the ‘conversation’ about this year’s election season has been a rather facetious celebration of the continued viability of Newt ‘The Professor’ Gingrich’s candidacy. My reason for disdaining seriousness in that comment was not so much contempt as much as it was weariness. The curve of the quality of election season conversation and ‘debate’  has shown a remarkable downward incline over the years; much as I celebrated the potential for levity in the continuation of the Republican primary battle in that post of mine, I did so knowing that there was very little chance that I would actually be able to tune in for more than a few minutes of the debates (so far, I have watched some 45 seconds of one debate last year).

This weariness finds its roots in an acknowledgement of the vapidity of the interactions between the candidates, of course, but its real provenance, lies, I think, in the knowledge that the candidates’ conversation appears to be mere epiphenomena, mere misleading froth above the surface of the domain of the real powerbrokers, the real puppeteers: the landed, moneyed, corporate entities that control political discourse and action in this nation of ours. This knowledge produces a certain sense of futility: Of what use public declamation and proclamation, when the real action is happening off-stage in corporate boardrooms and lobbyist offices? That’s where future political strategies and maps are being currently charted, where tactical and strategic syllabi are being drawn up, to be distributed to the cartel of political figureheads that will execute them and bring them to fruition. The vassals of our obedient media will supplement this activity with a crescendo of faithful echoes, amplifications, and hosannahs of approval.

So I have a modest proposal to make, one grounded in the hope that it will be seen for what it is: A call for honesty. Let us dispense with these faux-debates, these performances by political grandstanders, forced to master talking points and spin strategies, and to enter domains of discourse that seem so clearly beyond their limited intellects.  In instead, with the real wheelers-and-dealers: Let us have real debates and question-and-answer sessions with CEOs and lobbyists. They could articulate to us their vision for America; they could, armed with Powerpoint and video, point us to the map of their future courses, perhaps even distribute brochures and prospectuses of planned activities for, say, the next five years, the next ten years and so on. Management consultancy aides could supplement these with a series of presentations involving concentric circles, looping back arrowheads and intersecting rectilinear figures.

A conversation like this would bring some refreshing honesty to the American political landscape. It would dispense with this bizarre charade of middle-aged, besuited white men–in this age of supposedly rapid, bewildering change, it is good to know that some things are stable and enduring–exposed to the harsh glare of studio klieg lights, forced to mumble inanities for television audiences.

A great nation can do better than this.  Becoming more honest about its elections would be a good start.

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