Political Foodfights

by JW

To be fair, while Romney certainly “won” the debate last night, I really found the whole thing to be like a slogan foodfight. (You know, where both sides appear to be saying grand-sounding things that are obviously “over your head” with complexity but in reality both are throwing gobs of mashed-potatoes and Velveeta at each other’s face.)

According to them, Gov. Romney and the President both laid out a veritable menagerie of “facts.” Interestingly, in the absence of physical evidence from the Congressional Budget Office, most of these facts were nothing but opinions to most of the audience. Take this interchange, for instance:

“Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military.”

“I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds 5 trillion (dollars) if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.”

Ok, really? Facts? Those were not facts. They were two factual sounding opinions. The President’s statement is a conclusion–a grand, macho, ice-bergian hunk of a conclusion. He wasn’t holding up any white papers or pie charts. He wasn’t even citing any agency estimates or bureau projections. It was a conclusion. His conclusion.

And Gov. Romney’s statement. W0w. He didn’t come close to stating a fact. No, he made a promise. Listen, I’ll try it: “Ahem, I will not rip you off when I sell you this used car. So there. You can’t tell me I will if I say I won’t.” Totally believable. You know, maybe he’s right. Maybe American’s are unnecessarily frightened of taking politicians’ promises at face value. After all, goodness knows that politicians are nothing like used car salesmen.

Seriously, though what bothers me most about Wednesday’s debate is that it was probably very unhelpful to the average American. It ended up being a contest of who can throw the most well-rehearsed, canned talking points at the other. I think that so many Republicans got caught up in Gov. Romney’s charisma and wit that they didn’t realize that 90% of the debate sounded like this:

“The President’s policies are going to hurt the middle class.”    *Queue impassioned, soulful gaze into the camera.

“Uh, Governor Romney, uh, actually, no, actually it’s your Scrooge-favoring policies that will hurt the middle class.” 

“Gee, yours have buried them for the last four years.”   *Mental fist-bump with Paul Ryan for great use of Biden quote.

“Um, no, well, it was really George’s policies, that you love, that left the middle class buried four years ago. And, uh, I inherited them. And I’m fixing them. Slowly but surely.”   *Why does everyone not understand this yet?

“Look, with all due respect, your approach just isn’t best. It doesn’t work.”  *This is so simple, why doesn’t he get this?

“Uh, well, actually, no; it does work. Your plan is the one that doesn’t work.”  *This is so simple, why doesn’t he get this?

“I’m a businessman; my plan will work.”

“No, it actually won’t.”

“Yes it will.”

“No it won’t.”

Seriously? Only once in a chartreuse moon did either of the candidates break down, in a logical, analytical manner, exactly how their approach will work. They restated their conclusions. Over and over and over again. Sure, committed Republicans followed Romney fine–he used some nice-tasting illustrations. And committed Democrats understood exactly what the President was getting at–heck, they’ve worshipped his soundbite soufflés for the last four years.  But, ultimately, those on the fence didn’t find much actual “debating” to help influence their decision.

Maybe I set the bar too high. Maybe I expect everyone to argue using clear deductive logic. True, if you plan on baking a great pie, you darn-well better know exactly what you’re putting in. Then again, I need to remind myself that formal logic has long been taboo in our country. Be prepared to be shunned if you dare to suggest that we adhere to any principles of reasoning to prove our point. No, illustrations and conclusions work much better. They’re more fun to listen to. And, the media loves having good, short soundbites.

So, let’s apply this to the rest of our lives, shall we? It’s dinnertime, and the dessert tastes bad–again. Don’t ask the chef to explain his ingredients. Simply state that the pie is stupid and throw the freaking thing in his face. Your friends will know how you feel. If the chef  throws some back at you (other patrons will enjoy this), his friends will empathize with him, and might even call you names. But ultimately, if you can throw more pie in his face, it’s likely that about 67% of nearby patrons will say that you won. They’ll say you were right because you made your point.

But we will never know what was wrong with the pie’s ingredients. And the pie will never be fixed.

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