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These guys really do not like each other

Tuesday, Oct 9, 2018

* Sheesh…

* Zorn now thinks we should do away with debates altogether

The televised skirmish last Wednesday between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker, was so childish, so nasty, so uninformative and, overall, such a waste of an hour that it solidified my conversion to what’s likely an unpopular view:

Debates are a lousy way to evaluate candidates.

They may occasionally make for good theater, but politicians’ ability — or inability — to deliver zingers, dodge questions, pivot artfully, avoid gaffes and remember talking points in a rapid-fire rhetorical jousting match has little to do with their ability to be wise and effective elected officials.

If you wanted to hire, say, a real estate agent to sell your home, you would not invite all the prospects at once to your living room to see which one could most effectively trash the performance and honesty of the others. So why do we do essentially that when we want to hire (or rehire) a governor or any other major officeholder?


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ok - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 4:51 pm:

    The debate today was all about trying to get a soundbite for the evening news… and conversely trying to talk over the other guy’s soundbite so they couldn’t get it on the news.

    Very childish.

    Just shut off the mics.

  2. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 4:54 pm:

    I stopped watching debates when I gave up cable. I never missed them. Zorn is right. There are other, better, places to inform oneself about a candidate.

  3. - SOIL M - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 4:54 pm:

    These guys really do not like each other
    And I agree with both of them.
    Many people in this State dont like either of them. But we have to choose which one we dislike the least, and at this point thats JB. We have had enough of disliking Rauner. Time for a new Governor and see how we like him in 4 years.

  4. - Boone's is Back - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 4:55 pm:

    As awful as that exchange was I still believe that debates are an essentially important part of political discourse. Think back to the Lincoln/ Douglas debates or the Kennedy/ Nixon debate.

    I think it’s incumbent upon the moderators and news media not to feed into the nastiness and to set better ground rules.

  5. - Political Animal - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 4:55 pm:

    Debates can be educational, just not the way we do them.

    Instead of having catch all debates, the candidates should do a full hour on some mutually agreed major issues.

    How do you solve the pension crisis (1 hour)?

    What’s the best tax system for Illinois (1 hour)?

    How do you grow the economy and wages (1 hour)?

    I’m thinking of the debates Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz did on healthcare and the tax bill. Entire debates over one policy subject, with careful moderation keeping them on topic.

  6. - Warren G. Harding - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 4:58 pm:

    I won the Presidency without leaving my front porch (or something like that). With newspapers and other media moving back to non-objective, partisan standards, campaigning is also going to change. Debates seem to wax and wane in our nation’s history. Civility shall return when both parties and candidates find civility to be mutually beneficial. That, unfortunately,usually requires a serious foreign threat, war or personal sacrifice to accomplish.

  7. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 4:59 pm:

    One hour? How long does it take to say Madigan?

  8. - Henry Francis - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:00 pm:

    How much did offensively violent (bus attack) McGregor just clear from his fight with Khabib? 50MM?

    I guess offensive debates is the closest out of shape, middle aged rich guys can get to MMA. It’s what the people want these days.

    I hate it. But Trump confirmed it.

  9. - The Captain - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:04 pm:

    We bring in candidates to have an actual, literal argument right in front of us, we complain when these rituals produce no fireworks and then shortly afterward we clutch our pearls and decry negative campaigning. This is the modern political campaign.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:05 pm:

    ===Debates are a lousy way to evaluate candidates.===

    Oh, Mr. Zorn… lol

    Seeing one’s temperament and how they react on their feet is just as critical as the rote answers and snide remarks in these interactions.

    Toughen up.


  11. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:05 pm:

    Debates didn’t really become a thing until Carter/Ford in 76 (Kennedy/Nixon in ‘60, aside). Since then, they’ve become institutionalized on the national level and have trickled down to lower offices.

    They don’t generate much light.

  12. - Wow - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:11 pm:

    They are boring. Lacking true information. Can’t remember the last time I tuned in for more than 5-7 minutes.

  13. - cdog - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:15 pm:

    Since this is a political blog, I am to say something political.

    It seems that there is a new push, as the Democratic Party caters to its left flank, for the type of behavior exhibited by Pritzker in the clip.

    We’ve been watching it for weeks, expect worse and more of it.

  14. - Real - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:16 pm:

    I didn’t catch the entire debate but it seems like Rauner forgot to mention Madigan a million times at this meet.

  15. - Norseman - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:23 pm:

    The debates are a joke.

    A substitute: The Inquisition

    Ground rules:

    1) List of questions on state issues would be developed by panel of reporters - print/radio/tv/Cap Fax.

    2) The same questions would be asked of both candidates.

    3) The candidates would appear at the same time in separate conference rooms in front of video cameras.

    4) A moderator would ask the candidates the questions, but would not be on camera (to discourage showboating).

    5) Each candidate would have X minutes to answer the question. If they go beyond X minutes, the panel would edit to the 3 minutes. Edits would focus on that part of the answer that goes directly to the question. Political baloney would be cut.

    6) Rebuttal of X-1 minute given by moderator from a script developed by panel and fact checkers.

    7) A 2 minute closing statement.

    8) The tape containing the candidate responses and the rebuttals would be made available for viewing via media and web.

    Taking off my tinfoil hat now.

  16. - West Side the Best Side - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:26 pm:

    “My opponent, Stephen Douglas, is so short ….” Don’t think that’s the way those debates went, but I think the attention spans of 19th and 21st Americans are vastly different. Ooh, a donut!!

  17. - Norseman - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:27 pm:

    Animal, an hour? I’d throw a brick through the TV after Rauner mentioned “Madigan” after more than 1 minute.

  18. - SIUEalum - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:38 pm:

    I’d prefer to see a true town hall with the candidates, where they take questions from actual voters, not preselected questions from plants in the audience. But, since we’re not likely to ever see this happen at this point in the campaign, debates are the best we’re going to get.

  19. - Shemp - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:45 pm:

    Better moderators? Ones that demand an answer and cut off the talking points that avoid answers. We (they?) let the pols get away with it.

  20. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:46 pm:

    I second - Norseman -‘s idea.

    It’s genius, and allows all debating a quiet platform to look smart or ridiculous on their own, and we can watch without others stopping the train wrecks.

    Others might even be able to do well… it that’s the goal.

    It would really show how each candidate wants to be seen, on their own terms.

    Love it, bud.

  21. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:46 pm:

    –I still believe that debates are an essentially important part of political discourse. Think back to the Lincoln/ Douglas debates or the Kennedy/ Nixon debate.–

    Lincoln/Douglas were heavy lifts, deep dives into the issues of the day, with one candidate opening for an hour, the second responding for an hour-and-a-half, with the original speaker closing for half an hour.

    Kennedy/Nixon were not nearly so heavy, but certainly many steps above what we see today.

  22. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:54 pm:

    –It seems that there is a new push, as the Democratic Party caters to its left flank, for the type of behavior exhibited by Pritzker in the clip.–

    Sad he didn’t learn by example and comport himself with the dignity that the president did in all his primary and general election debates.

  23. - The Dude - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 5:56 pm:

    Let’s be honest here. Nothing could be worse for this state if Rauner was reelected. He would go head to head against Madigan and we would have several another budget crisis(which would result in even more late fees and interest payments) state workers will strike, and more young college grads will move out.

    I’m not a fan of JB either but when compared to Rauner all of a sudden JB is like a light at the end of the tunnel.

    I simply cannot destroy my state by voting for Rauner.

  24. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 6:12 pm:

    It’s not that debates are bad; it’s the -format- we’ve allowed them to fall into (under the prodding of the candidates) that’s bad.
    Editorial Board interviews do a little better, but the real problem has been candidates being unresponsive and going right to their practiced lines, with nobody in the moderating chair really calling them on it, on the spot.

  25. - blue dog dem - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 6:20 pm:

    These guys really don’t like each other. That makes the three of us.

  26. - FormerParatrooper - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 6:35 pm:

    So far the debates tell me they don’t care for each other and have not convinced me that either is worthy of my vote.

  27. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 6:47 pm:

    Debates are not as useful between candidates that do not need earned media.

    I have read some but not all of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Those guys really could not stand each other either.

  28. - AlfondoGonz - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 7:56 pm:

    Debates are good if the candidates are good.

  29. - Biker - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 8:13 pm:

    Debates can be important. Just not this time. There’s little that can be said or done by either candidate that would make me change my mind on who I will vote for after the current governor willfully tried to bankrupt the state. I haven’t watched a debate between these two and don’t plan to. I just hope that Pritzker focuses on turnout issues in his ads the rest of the way like legalization, public transit, free community college, and taxin’ the rich and doesn’t fall for Quinn’s trap of trying to appeal to voters who will never vote for him with pension reduction schemes that won’t pass Illinois Constitutional muster.

  30. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 9:54 pm:

    If you don’t want a spectacle, turn the cameras off. Newspapers wanting to be TV. What do you think happens? Remember when Ives tried to give a moderate Madigan answer to the Trib edit board? How’d that work out for her? When it’s crunch time and the cameras are rolling, these things have nothing to do with answering questions.

  31. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Oct 9, 18 @ 10:08 pm:

    –Newspapers wanting to be TV. –

    The worst. That’s how you get Rupert Pupkins like Katrina and Kass, abusing the written word and newsprint with their chronic, sad, ignored auditions for cable TV blabbermouth.

    Whatever editors there are left in tronclodyte opinion land gave up a long time ago.

  32. - dbk - Wednesday, Oct 10, 18 @ 4:36 am:

    I watched the whole debate and it was not edifying.

    They don’t like each other, but there’s more: Rauner seems to bring out the worst in anybody he interacts with.

    And more: We know BVR will never be prepared, but seeing how poorly prepared JB was - what’s up with that? He’s spent $140m? give or take, and he hasn’t got the absolutely top policy people on state finance? Why not?

    And JB said what he most regretted that it hadn’t been a purely policy-focused campaign? Huh?

    I was thinking that after 4 years of a Gov who sees IL as his own PE acquisition, JB would be a relief. But now I’m beginning to think JB might see IL as his very own philanthropic incubator.

    Where are his public policy gurus, and why aren’t they teaching him stuff every chance they get?

    This is on JB - and his choices - as well as on whomever he’s paying to advise him now.

  33. - Driving a car - Wednesday, Oct 10, 18 @ 9:05 am:

    100% agree with Zorn. If they’re just going to spit out empty platitudes and insults they should save everyone some time and just play a few of their (many) campaign ads on a loop.

    Watching these debates just makes me sad

  34. - Pundent - Wednesday, Oct 10, 18 @ 9:10 am:

    I think there can and should be value in debates but as others have suggested we need to rethink the way in which they’re structured particularly given the current environment. All to often they devolve into candidates talking over one another trying to score cheap points. Nothing is learned and the only outcome is capturing sound bites for campaign ads. We need a format that encourages the explanation of ideas and punishes or minimizes grandstanding. Presumably one of the main functions of a debate is to educate and influence undecided voters. I can’t see how these free for all’s do that. If anything they only reinforce the notion that we have lousy choices.

  35. - Arock - Wednesday, Oct 10, 18 @ 9:16 am:

    When you have a debate between two guys that have no idea how they are going to fix the problems in Illinois what would you expect?

  36. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Wednesday, Oct 10, 18 @ 9:38 am:

    Debates have devolved into juvenile name-calling, rude interruptions, talking points repeated ad nauseam, etc.
    WBEZ recently interviewed both of them separately - thoughtful probing questions, polite answers. Much better.
    Moderators need to take a page from old Richard J - when things get out of hand, just cut off their mic.

  37. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Wednesday, Oct 10, 18 @ 10:05 am:

    Link to WBEZ “Chalkbeat” October 2 separate interviews on education:

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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