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The democratic debate snooze factor

By       Message Terry Riley     Permalink
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I'm sure all readers of this site are well aware by now that Dennis Kucinich was not invited to participate in the Iowa democratic debate (of 13 Dec., '07). You can read about this issue on this site here and here (and probably in other editorials or articles posted at this site, I cannot say). Alternatively, you can read about it directly from the Des Moines Register, the newspaper that in conjunction with a television station organized and hosted the debate. Note that in the latter, the article has been updated since yesterday, in response I presume to the large number of comments the article generated, not to mention emails and phone calls not only to the newspaper itself, but also to the Register's advertisers. I'm happy to see that the paper has apparently left the comments from readers in place, which I recommend reading as well.

All I wish to comment on here is what has been referred to as the "snooze" factor in the democratic debate.

If you understand certain principles involved in the relationship between entertainment, education, and information, it becomes clear that there is a more insidious and subtle effect resulting from the exclusion of Kucinich from the latest debate than the obvious which comes to mind from the undemocratic exclusion of one man from such national exposure. I say "effect" rather than "motivation" because it renders irrelevant whether this effect is accidental or deliberate. Some might think it cynical to presume that certain influences are so subtle and Machiavellian as to actually calculate these things. For myself, personally, apply any label you wish, I believe that such a thing cannot be entirely accidental. These planner and movers are very smart people and they do indeed think about many, many factors when planning events. What their motivations may be, however, are beyond my capacity to even guess.

This principle that I speak of is that something which livens up a performance like a debate has an effect which benefits all participants in the performance, or in this case, the debate. Not only directly in that all participants are galvanized, energized, relaxed, and/or become more spirited from the general atmosphere. But also indirectly in that all participants benefit from a more concentrated, enlivened, and interested audience. Make someone laugh from stage right and they will pay more attention, with interest, to whatever occurs stage left.

The exclusion of Dennis Kucinich on some flimsy bureaucratic and arbitrary technicality must be seen not only as an event in isolation, though surely that in itself may be quite revealing. But it must also be seen in combination with tandem events. In this case, it must be seen as part of a broader whole which also saw the inclusion of Alan Keyes in the republican debate, a candidate who is virtually nonexistent in this race and one who apparently wasn't even campaigning for himself during the debate.

When one considers the snooze factor from the democratic debate, one must also consider, whatever else Alan Keyes may have provided to the republican debate, that he provided a spark to that debate which very simply put made it more interesting. In my case too, even though I naturally find myself in far greater sympathy and empathy with the democrats in this race and even though I personally think the democrats are clearly more informed on their various issues and have much clearer perspectives than their republican counterparts, I found the republican debate much easier and more enjoyable to watch. Frankly, I too was bored in great measure by the democratic debate.
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Iowa polls may have put Kucinich at only about 1%, but Keyes has not even ranked that highly in most recent polls, his numbers being so low. 9 republicans took the stage, yet only 6 democrats, so surely the crowding doesn't enter into the picture. Given that the same organizers set up both debates, held only one day apart, I find it more than coincidental that Kucinich's absence (not to mention Gravel's absence) left the democratic stage with far less sparkle and colour than otherwise would have been the case, yet the very opposite was the effect of Alan Keyes inclusion in the republican debate.

To forestall, hopefully, at least one inevitable objection to my point of view, I know what the rationale was; what the technicality was upon which the Register made their decision. In short, it comes down to this: Kucinich's campaign office in Iowa was in someone's home and not in a rented commercial property. As has been pointed out quite succinctly by others already, one may well wonder if a cottage industry run from one's home does not constitute a business in Iowa. In that case, perhaps, one may wonder if their earnings count as earnings and therefore if they are in turn exempt from taxation. In the computer age of the 21st century, such a distinction seems particularly odd. Perhaps most importantly, any lawyer who has studied federal statutes at length can tell you that most of us - literally more than half the adult population in the United States - has broken federal law at some point(s) in our lifetimes and could theoretically be charged, tried and imprisoned. And I mean right now, as I write this, as you read this. Yet obviously this is not enforced by federal law enforcement agencies - some common sense still does exist in our world. And lastly, one may well inquire into the communications between the Register and the Kucinich campaign. Was the Kucinich campaign warned in a timely fashion that they weren't meeting the requirements for inclusion in the debate? (Of course, I think we all know by the time such questions have been answered, they will already have faded into inconsequence.)

Anyway, returning from the interruption of my digression, does anyone think for a minute that this net effect, in the case of either debate plus the combined effect of the two, doesn't have an impact upon the American voter? Doesn't all of this make one wonder even more than they may have previously about the state of democracy in the United States? Now it seems generally accepted that unfair financing has an improper effect upon the democratic process, but perhaps the machinations of corporate owned media may be even more directly and deliberately interfering in the democratic process.

I remember how derisive we as a country were for so many decades over the single party system in the communist USSR. I remember how derisive we were over what we saw as a pretense of a parliamentary system which, in our view, simply rubber stamped anything put before them. And I also remember something Krushchev, former Premier of the Soviet Union once said about the different between Russian and the United States - in Russia, he said, people have a choice of one man to lead them; in the United States, he continued, people have a choice between two men to lead them.

That may be significant, that difference between one and two. But is it democracy?
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Terry is a former professional actor who later developed an independent career as a computer consultant. He has appeared on stage professionally, as well as television and film. He spent time as a radio announcer and commentator. He has written (more...)

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The democratic debate snooze factor