We, the American people, have suffered through two of this year’s presidential debates, and have just one more to go. One. More. Debate. I think most of us will agree that there hasn’t been much substance to either of the first two, and I’m not expecting anything to change for the third unless there’s another candidate on stage. Presidential debates haven’t always been the garbage fires we have these days, though. There used to be actual discourse concerning issues facing the American public. That’s the subject of Episode 31 of Beer & Bros. Click play and see if you learn more from us than you do from Trump and Clinton.
Televised presidential debates haven’t always been the norm. But, to really get to the heart of these debates, we have to go back a little further. Back in 1858, future President Lincoln and Stephen Douglas trailed one another around Illinois, each in an effort to gain a senatorial seat in that state. The debate that arose, lasting three hours – where the two discussed the moral and economic pros and cons of slavery – laid the groundwork for great debates to come.
By 1952, debates were still not a major deciding factor for the race to The White House. The first televised debate to really have an impact was between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. Nixon had injured himself weeks before, gotten an infection, spent time in the hospital, and continued his work as Vice President – all leading up to the televised debate. Kennedy, on the other hand, spent much of the time leading up to the debate resting and preparing for questions. The result–people who watched the debate on television saw a sallow, underweight, and tired looking Nixon debating a healthy looking Kennedy. Those who watched the debate felt overwhelmingly that Kennedy had won. People who listened on the radio, however, thought the debate was either a draw or was won by Nixon. A new era of presidential campaigning had begun, and appearance was now an important part of the candidacy.
In this episode of Beer & Bros., we discuss these debates and many others. We also touch on the League of Women Voters’ involvement in the debate process and how they were edged out by George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis before the 1988 debate, ushering in the era of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which continues to this day. This, in my opinion, is when presidential debates began to change from debates to debacles.
Listen to this episode. Click play. Let us know what you think, and thanks for tuning in.
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