Last night's debate is on the minds of many, so I figured I'd throw in my two cents. Not a top five today, but just five points. But before I get into these points, I don't think it matters who "won" or "lost," though I'll say Romney was tons more convincing and did a better job debating. But that doesn't mean I think his policies are better, or that he'd be a better candidate to lead the nation. I know people often equate "debate winner" with "more presedential"...which leads me to point number 1.
1) People Are Stupid - Even before the night began, I was annoyed at how much stock people were putting into these debates. Debates, by design, are flawed because they play to human's visceral reactions (which are often wrong/misleading), and to the fact that many "impressionable" people will believe whatever you say, as long as you do so with conviction. This is why debates are often filled with mistruths, sketchy numbers, and vagueries. And last night was no exception. It's funny that we all watch the debates, look forward to the fact checker results, and then proceed to not hold the mistruths against the candidates. How sad is it that we have just accepted the fact that politicians lie (egregiously in many cases), yet proceed to put our trust in them anyway?
2) Mitt Romney Is Suddenly A Moderate? Well, let's see. If you believe his comments last night, he supports Social Security as is (which flies in the face of previous rhetoric), he's for keeping Medicare as is (Paul Ryan's voucher system be damned!), he's all for regulation (though he'd like to repeal Dodd Frank and replace it with...something), and apparently he's ditching his tax plan that he spent the last year campaigning on, and just decided to tell us about it last night (without any real detail.) So it looks like Romney shook the etch-a-sketch again and ditched a lot of the far right ideals he previously spewed to win the nomination. Kind of ironic because he seems to have re-energized a base by going against their newly found Randist ideals. Will the real Romney please stand up? (My guess is he's always been a moderate.)
3) The 5 Trillian Tax Cut/716 Billion Medicare Cut - Mitt Romney had previously stated that he'd cut all marginal tax rates by 20 percent, which would, in effect, cut revenue by five trillian. But last night he flat out denied it, said he would not increase the deficit, but then failed to explain how he'd make up the difference. It seems to me taxes would have to be raised, or draconian spending cuts would have to be implemented elsewhere, but he was pretty vague about the numbers. Also, the 716 billion Medicare cut in "Obamacare" is misleading because that number isn't cut from current beneficiaries. To hear Romney say it, you'd think Obama opened the Medicare vault, stole the money, and "made it rain" in some Chicago ghetto. Those savings come from reduced payments to insurance companies and other providers, and no matter how many times the Romney campaign has been told this, they continue to spew out the misleading number anyway. Ironically, in Paul Ryan's budget, the one Romney previously endorsed, he proposes cutting that same exact number (716!), except those would harm current beneficaries and raise premiums. Also, the plan Romney would replace Medicare with? Well, it doesn't exist unless you consider a quick memo, with no numbers, on his website a plan. This is typical "have your cake and eat it too" politics. Just trust him, he'll make it work.
4) The President has to cut out the "umms" and "ahhs" - It's hard to have conviction when you sounds like an idiot. People are sheep (or lemmings) and just want to be led. They will often times just side with the guy that sounds better. Also, it's just odd that Obama refuses to attack back or stand on his record. His numbers aren't exactly a garden of roses, but he can certainly spin alot of them to make it seem that way. Romney has been running on the "you're worse off than you were in 08" platform, which is simply untrue. Where was that rebuttal last night?
5) I Don't Think These Debates Even Matter - Truth is, most people have made up their minds already, or are leaning in a certain direction anyway. The debate format is good for theater, but people have short attention spans and will be distracted by the next bright, shiny light any second. We'll all discuss how last night's results will have meaning, how it will be Romney's great comeback, but I personally find it hard to believe that a simple debate (or three of them) will really have much sway on a nation that has spent the past 4 years doubling down on their beliefs to the point where neither are willing to budge.
And this speaks to a bigger issue, and there was an attack point during Romney's rant against "Obamacare" that stuck with me. Even though "Romneycare" and "Obamacare" are pretty much identical, Romney claimed a major difference was that his plan was a bipartisan agreement, and that Obamacare was shoved through congress despite Republican opposition. Now, I understand Obama couldn't simply say, "well that's because Republicans are more interested in being obstructionist assholes," but he should have, because its the truth. When Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell said the Republicans' number one goal was not to improve the country, but to get Obama out of office. This was before he did ANYTHING. And they've spent the last four years filibustering and disagreeing with every single policy put forward. So, of course, the Republicans wouldn't agree with Obamacare, they hated it before they even saw one singular policy point, simply because it came from a democrat president and congress. The reality is, "Obamacare" isn't some "government takeover," its a republican plan. It's Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan, its similar to the republican plan put forth by Bob Dole and the republicans during the 1994 healthcare debate. It's a giveaway to insurance companies because it increases their customer base. It's not a perfect plan, but it's definitely one that can be fine tuned over time.
Due to numerous factors, and I blame social media and the 24/7 newscycle most, people have entrenched themselves in beliefs regardless of whether they think they are right or wrong. People need a strong identity to stand out, and because of the constant flow of information, they are forced to discuss and defend their beliefs to the point where it becomes an inpenetrable callous. It's pride that keeps us in our own way. It's a need to be "right," instead of opening our minds to the possibility of justice for all. I'm guilty of it, you're guilty of it, and because of it, we'll just continue the downward spiral way past the point of no return.
So, no, I don't think the debates matter much because none of us are actually interested in a debate. We're interested in shouting and degrading. And it doesn't matter if we're wrong or right, all that matters is that we win an unwinnable, ongoing argument.
And that's fucking sad. Welcome to America in 2012.