Thursday, October 4, 2012

Judging Presidential Idol

Who do you think won the first Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Well, according to a CNN poll 67% believe it was Mr. Romney. That number sounds about right when compared to an unofficial poll of my Twitter feed. If Romney won, this means Obama was the loser. I disagree on both counts. It’s apparent to me based not on the debate but reactions to it that the winner was Style, and the loser was Substance. Substance is specifically indicating how you intend to address a problem and why you believe it has a solid chance to be successful. As for an effective style, it seems some examples would be ignoring and/or speaking over the moderator, being loudest and the most demonstrative, in general coming off as more aggressive than anyone else in the room.

Now I find nothing wrong with being demonstrative/loud/aggressive (rudeness to moderator is less than charming but not a deal breaker), so long as this is the manner in which you are delivering facts and common sense and a well laid out plan. If instead you are vague, denying what I plainly heard you say just the other day, making grand promises without showing a shred of evidence as to how it’s possible to achieve them, then I don’t care how much flair you demonstrate. While writing this I had a flashback to that little old lady from the Wendy’s commercials. Where’s the beef, she would demand to know. Mitt Romney did better than many expected from him and Barack Obama was less animated than a great number of his supporters hoped for. Expectations held in advance strongly influence determinations made after the fact. But ask yourself this. How can you declare Romney to be “the winner” when his claims on stage were both toothless and beefless? Perhaps Mitt made a stronger impression on you, particularly in comparison to his previous bumbling and stumbling. But do you intend to vote for an impression or for the real deal? Will you vote for the man who says and proves by actions how he’ll maintain Medicare and Social Security, promote improvements in the education system, lower the unemployment rate and deficit, increase our independence from oil and the nations in possession of much of it, cut the middle class a break in hard times rather than making the rich richer? Or will you vote for the man who says he’ll do all of that too, but gives no indication of how he would accomplish anything other than the opposite?

Mitt Romney’s campaign for president has been full of contradictions and inconsistencies. At one time or another he has been on both sides of most issues. The most blatant instance is his assault on and promise to repeal a healthcare plan that is based on his own model from when he was governor of Massachusetts and still possessed 47% of the heart provided by the Wizard of Oz. There are not enough hours in the day, much less in a debate where you only get half of the alloted time, to point out every instance of Romney’s hypocrisy. Yet many wish that Barack Obama had highlighted considerably more of them than he got around to. Consider me one of those people. But please don’t declare that I am someone who thinks Romney won the debate, and definitely do not place me on Team Style. No, I ride with Substance all the way. President Obama’s agenda may not be perfect (perfection is impossible anyway when met with obstruction from the Senate at every turn), but it is a plausible solution. It is tempting to want and believe in quick fixes, explaining why so much money has been made off of diet pills even though we know calorie control and exercise are what works. Turning the economy around cannot be done overnight, and not simply because George W. Bush was given 8 years to mess it up. Slow and steady is a believable course of action, no matter that it makes us understandably impatient. Waving a magic wand while cutting taxes on the rich to instantly create 12 million jobs is a far less plausible plan. That’s true even when it’s proclaimed with fantastic showmanship.

Left leaning political pundits are in an uproar. Social media is in a tizzy. Mitt Romney won the debate, they cry. All is lost. Perhaps Romney did win the debate per your personal standards of what victory looks like. If you think all is lost, though, then you must believe that the “independent undecideds” are just as easily swayed by sound and fury that signifies nothing. Keep in mind that up until now nothing has been able to swing them one way or the other. How this can be the case continues to befuddle me. I’m not sure whether they number in the millions, the thousands, or the dozens. I have no idea if they’re spread throughout the country or reside together Big Brother style. What I do know is that those who support Obama still support the President, those who support Romney still support him, and talking softly while carrying a big stick tends to be more effective than empty handed shouting.

"At some point, the American people have to ask themselves if the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret is because they're too good." - President Barack Obama

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