I'm unsure as to what point in time some deity far up in the sky looked down upon human creation and decided that we must have political debates nearly as many times as one changes their socks. With the 2008 presidential election cycle already underway it seems like someone holds a debate for the candidates nearly every week.
I remember very clearly having been Chairman of the University of Miami College Republicans during UM's hosting of the first presidential debate in 2004. The university set up a variety of events celebrating the occasion and with the descent of the national media on the Coral Gables campus the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. I can't remember how many times I was asked in press interviews if this new-found excitement would lead to an increase in student interest in politics.
The short answer was of course, no - as soon as the cameras all left so too did the student-interest. Unfortunately, the actual debate hardly lived up to all its pre-debate hype. Without recapping the whole thing, President Bush seemed distracted and John Kerry was given credit for a win he never really achieved - he just avoided being completely uninteresting for 90 minutes. And did America learn anything new from that experience other that its never a good idea to lean forward on a podium and tap your foot when you're speaking to an audience?
So here we are after not only endeavoring upon the earliest possible start date of a presidential election cycle - and the 4,000-plus debates already held by MSNBC alone - but we now also find ourselves on the eve of the first presidential debate organized by Spanish language network Univision. As if we haven't heard enough one-minute length responses from each of the 89,000 people running for President from both parties (that's 89,002 if you count Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinic), now we get to hear those same one-minute length responses with a voice-over by a Spanish-speaking translator.
Now this is all well and good. If the new benchmark of a group's political clout (or apparent political clout) is to be able to organize a presidential debate and have at least all of one party's candidates show up (in this case the Democrats), then clearly the Hispanic community have that kind of emerging and/or apparent clout. I say apparent because I think Hispanics - like almost all other groups in this country - are hardly monolithic in their interests and voting habits.
My question however returns to my original point - we've had so many of these things in the ten months since the 2006 election, is there really any benefit to derived from it except that which is borne of bragging rights? As the complaints of several candidates and many in the news media seem to indicate, there are far too many candidates in the running and far too little time for any of them to be more specific in their answers than what would amount to a shadow of a sound bite.
In the twenty-plus years I've been watching debates I have yet to learn anything new about a candidate from a debate beyond how they perform under spotlights. Sadly debates seem to be nothing more than mere pageantry; just one more form of entertainment in a nation that already has too much.