So after all the debates, have the undecided voters figured it out yet? Well, maybe. But maybe they shouldn’t have.
After three debates, was there some opaque stance that really needed articulating? Was some lingering ambiguity resolved, and now we are for sure certain about who likes trade deals and who doesn’t? Did we clarify who prefers military isolationism and who sides with intervention? Was there anything left to really say, or did we tune in just for entertainment?
Granted, it is easier to see the entertainment value of the debates this campaign cycle. It should be clear by now that the debates are constructed so as to hollow out any matters of significance. The form of the program sets the mood and expectation of the viewers. Debates intentionally don’t look like Firing Line anymore. They’re designed to engage the audience just enough to bring eyeballs to the advertisers, but not to awaken an active consciousness about what is being seen. They’re structured as a brawl by their very form, leaving rational argument to the side in favor of rhetorical pugilism.
As the content becomes peripheral, the form of the material is prioritized. What matters most is how many soundbytes can be extracted and made into clickbait. Keep asking the same questions, become irksome, maybe you’ll provoke a quotable comment out of frustration. Keep covering the same ground, stay in the overton window, maintain a good pincer formation with the panopticon, never let the other person control the maneuvers; viz. give 60 seconds to cover all of what should be done about nukes, or foreign countries, or the economy. Whatever you do, don’t let the discussion cover the merits of policies because this would limit the number of faux pas comments that can be made into jokes.
If this seems like a trick, that’s because it is. But if you think that realizing it is a trick somehow makes you impervious to deception, then you’re doubly tricked. If you think that, you’re tricking yourself. After all, you can’t be bluffed if you’re not paying attention, and your attention is being crafted to exactly where they want it: superficially, without any further analysis.
This was hinted at in the last debate and subsequent coverage. You probably accepted it. For this, Chris Wallace as the harbinger, subtly hinting at something but then bait-and-switching the question to the desired answer. Think of Chris Wallace as a double entendre: pointing towards one thing, but really aiming for something else.
During the debate, it was said that it is irrational to refuse to accept the outcome of an election. But this was not reasoned out. There was no discussion of the myriad ways governments can organize. It was asserted tout court.
If you’re on the right, you may feel that things are against you because the polls are against you. That’s post-hoc reasoning. The game is not “rigged” against Trump. If anything, Trump has rigged the system in his favor:
If we want to talk media “bias”, we know the funding to parties is biased, the political coverage is disproportionate, the talking head “experts” are chosen from a narrow spectrum, and actual news reports take flak or are internally censored.
The liberal apparatchik have just as much motivation to rig the system in their favor. At present, the criticisms from the left defending the current system are the same ones that were used in the primaries against Sanders:
Refusing to accept election results if they don’t go your way is not radical. It’s self-interested and promoting the legitimacy of the current system. That’s blaming the roulette ball for landing on red without acknowledging the house’s odds from the beginning. Also, accepting the process when it is going your way is equally self-serving. That’s almost tautological.
Changing the process is what would be radical. Attempts to make radical new rules and set them into motion, however, will run into the barriers given above. It would require some sort of mass action, from inside the current system, to turn things around. Almost as if, working together, who knows, an alternative could emerge…