Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Can We Agree, No More Idiotic 'Show of Hands' Questions For The Next Dem Debate?

Memo to the Democratic presidential candidates: Stop raising your hands
Dem candidates at last debate in June falling into the 'raise your hands' trap - which now Trump's campaign can use in an ad.

'Health Care Puts Democrats On Hot Seat' (WSJ yesterday, p. A4)  highlighted the "wages" that have now come due thanks to Dem presidential candidates decision to respond to a show of hands  question in the first debate.  Thus we read:

"Democratic presidential candidates who want Medicare for All are now preoccupied with explaining their stance on private plans"  

Adding they "seek to add nuance to their stances"

Recall this was in response to co-moderator Lester Holt's gotcha question (of the 'show of hands' variety) i.e. "Who here would abolish private insurance in favor of a government run plan. Show of hands!"

Effectively,  by their Pavlovian response,  giving the Trumpies a campaign gift that might have alarming consequences next year.  In the words of former Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala, quoted in the piece (ibid.):

"Calling for ending employer -provided coverage could be a strategic catastrophe that re-elects Trump"

And it didn't have to happen! The Dem candidates could have paused, reflected on their actions and the consequences, then refused to partake in such a halfwit display.

Political analyst and University of Texas Poly-sci Professor Victoria Defrancesco didn't mince words last Friday in an MSNBC spot on the Stephanie Ruhle show. She said flatly: "I can just see Trump's campaign team now, cutting their ads from the last Democratic debate when they all raised hands."  

One such cringe -inducing  moment to which she referred  occurred when MSNBC debate co-moderator, Savannah Guthrie, squawked like a school marm impatient for class participation:

"This is a show of hands question so hold your hands up so people can see!"

At which point - had I been a candidate on that stage-    I'd have shot back: 

"What? Are you an idiot or something? I'm not raising my hand  to answer some flip-ass loaded question so the Trump campaign can use it in an ad!"

That would obviously be even before the question was burped out, because anyone with more than air between the ears would have to know such a "question" has to be loaded.  Evoking a similar disastrous occasion back in 1988 when CNN's Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis: ''if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" 

 You can see it asked in the link below, which will surely live in infamy:


 In this case the Guthrie show of hands question was;

"Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants."

Whereupon all the candidates, so far I could see, promptly committed political hari kari and obeyed like a bunch of brain dead zombies.  If "nuance" is a crucial need in the next debate tonight, I'd say applying it to this ranks even higher than attention to Mr. Holt's question. Certainly if IQ was a critical attribute for a leader all of these dopes would fail.  Let's return to debate Co-moderator Lester  Holt who also  used the “raise your hand”  idiocy on both campaign nights, i.e.. “Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?,” 

Abolish private health insurance?  You twit! You just asked the candidates to flat out volunteer who would take insurance away from 150m Americans.  That is 150 m potential voters you've  inflamed or upset. For what? A damned sound bite moment?
Once again, with virtually no exceptions, the Democratic presidential contenders fell into the “gotcha” trap.   Smelling blood,  Trump tweeted before the second debate had ended: “All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race.” 
Again, most of those onstage committed hari kari in front of tens of millions of viewers. And Republican National Committee admen.

As anyone with even half a working brain ought to know, "show of hands" questions are the hallmarks of  indolent, dumbed down moderators, trying to cut corners, take short cuts.  They are designed to quickly, definitively, and somewhat simplistically separate candidates from one another on “hot button” policies.   You sure as shit can't get much more hot button than asking about whether you'd provide coverage to undocumented immigrants - especially in a polarized, immigrant anxious country.   Just as you can't get much more hot button than asking a candidate out of the freaking blue what he'd do if his wife was raped, say to get his stance on the death penalty.

But this is what our political, electoral landscape has devolved to: big circus freak shows posing as debates which give precious little leeway for thoughtful questions - opting instead for the noisome 'gotcha' kind.  It's enough to make a citizen barf.

Too, these asinine 'show of hands' questions  often force candidates to instantaneously display  positions they might never have with thoughtful consideration of the full risks, consequences.  This is why it's critical candidates at these events think before they put hands up - in a 'millions of viewers'  image or action - that can be captured by the other side for any purpose it desires.  Then replayed ad nauseam on local or national political ads.

There is, of course, the chance of getting a small win, say in attracting primary voters in their party.  However, in the end it's got way too high a damage potential and ends up scaring moderates or independents in the general election. Exactly the  types of voters you need to ensure Trump doesn't snatch a 2nd term thanks to a deformed Electoral College that long since ceased to live up to its purpose as the Founders envisaged.

In the end, I'd like to believe - I say 'like to' because I'm not sure if the lesson sunk in - that our motley crew of Dems would be able to say a resounding 'NO!' next time a moderator moron asks for a show of hands.  Besides, being able to say 'No' at a critical juncture should also be an essential attribute for a president to be.

Let's say that I hope that in the next two debates the candidates will have the cojones to tell the moderator(s) to stuff if the latter attempt a dopey 'show of hands gimmick.

See also:
by Lawrence Wittner | July 30, 2019 - 5:54am | 

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