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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Debates and Discussions-Bulwarks of American Democracy

By Jesudason John Atputharajah

America has developed a democratic system of government that has grown in strength and character over the years. It takes a good look at the candidates they chose as their leaders and they take a fairly long time over it.

Their method is reminiscent of the Greek tradition of city-states where almost all most all citizens get involved in one way or other. Debates and discussions become the major modus operandi in the selection of candidates as nominees for the major parties.

The candidates' debates are not constitutionally mandated, but it is considered as an indispensable election process. The topics taken for discussion are the current issues at stake in the country and world at large-at the time of the elections. Mostly presidential debates are held late in the election process, after the political parties have nominated their candidates. At first debates are held between contestants from within the party during the primaries. Normally the discussions are held in a large hall, before a public audience.

Though the debates started as far back as the period of Abraham Lincoln, it has gathered momentum and has become a lively forum in recent times. The series of seven debates in 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen A Douglas were true, face to face debates, with no moderator.

The candidates took it in turns to open each debate with a one hour speech, then the other candidate had one and a half hour to reply. and finally the first candidate closed the debate with a half-hour response.

The first election debate was held on September 26, 1960, between US Senator John F Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice-President, Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, in Chicago at the studios of WBBM-TV. It was moderated by Howard K Smith with a panel composed of journalists.

A historian J.N Druckman observed the telecast as 'television primes its audience to rely more on their perceptions of candidate image'. It was after 1976 that the debates became a regular feature of the presidential debates.

The dramatic effect of televised debates was demonstrated again in the 1976 debates between Ford and Carter. Then in 1980, debates between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan became a major factor in the elections. With years of experience in front of the camera as an actor, Reagan was able to get a landslide victory over Carter.

Rules and format for the debates have developed over the years. Some of the debates feature the candidates standing behind their podiums, or in conference tables with the moderator on the other side. Depending on the mutually agreed format, either the moderator and or a member of the audience can ask questions. In recent debates, colored lights resembling traffic lights have been installed to aid the candidate as to the time left.

Nowadays the Presidential election debates have become very lively and intrusive. They vet the personality and performance of each candidate in a very thorough manner bringing out their merits and demerits for the public to know and make decisions on their own. The major forums are organized by Wolf Blitze, Henderson Cooper, Jake Tapper and Don Lemon.

The proceedings are relayed through telecasts and the radio. They get their opinions on all important issues like Terrorism, Deportation, National Security, LGPT issues, Entitlements, Gun Control, Minimum Wages, Free- trade, Immigration, Jobs, Foreign Policy, Education and other facets of national life. The personal characteristics of each candidate are clearly brought out and their activities in the past are also examined.

Any doubtful matters are cleared with discussions with them. The responses from each member is useful for the voter to decide on the character of each candidate and vote for them or reject them. These discussions only help the undecided voter. Most voters are cling to their party affiliations are not subject to any change of mind when comes to voting at federal elections. Participation in these discussions and debates are a great experience to the candidates. They are useful to rehabilitate them. They become inclusive and evolve as suitable presidential material. Past election discussions are brought into preview.

Former presidential debates are also brought into focus as useful lessons can be obtained from past experiences. With experience as the Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton and as an outstanding example of American success story, Donald Trump are likely to emerge as the final contenders for the post of president in November 2016.

The on-going presidential debates for the election in November have gathered new interest in debates. Many issues relating to jobs, economy and national security are discussed elaborately by the moderators, journalists, supporters and political analysts.

It is said that 28 pages of the 9/11 report has not been released to the public in the interests of world peace and national security.

Being the president of USA is a great responsibility and that is why several issues are thoroughly scrutinized before a person is declared the winner.

Democratic processes are effectually utilized in order to choose the best candidate. Democracy has its strength and at times weaknesses but America has the resources to overcome these hazards to move forward with success.

- Asian Tribune -

The first election debate was held on September 26, 1960, between US Senator John F Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice-President, Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, in Chicago at the studios of WBBM-TV.
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