Posted by A. Turner
In connection with the last presidential debate on Monday, October 22, 2012, IF hosted a debate watch party at the Washington Post (“Post”) on 15th street. The event was co-hosted by the Post, El Tiempo and other IF affiliated organizations. The discussion topic of the night was Helping Out: Humanitarian Policy For Global Security.
As with the last debate we saw an aggressive Barack Obama come out swinging at an oddly demure Mitt Romney. The debate was picked apart during the following week, but it was widely agreed that Obama got the better of the exchanges. The debate was supposed to be centered on foreign policy, but both candidates made it clear that foreign policy was not on their agenda and instead they used this final debate as their last opportunity to pitch the American public as to why either of them should be president. While somewhat entertaining, I was very disappointed that there was no real discussion of foreign policy. Instead Romney would criticize aspects of Obama’s foreign policy agenda and then segued into talking about the economy and domestic issues. In response, Obama would verbally smack Romney’s hand and then make a pitch for his own domestic policy. Beyond all belief after just calling him incompetent and unfit for office Romney with a paternalistic doe like expression agreed with the majority of the positions staked out by Obama.
Putting my political views aside, I have become very disenchanted with the whole process, and find it to be a beauty contest, where dating the judges to garner support is openly allowed and encouraged. Other than hearing each party’s talking points I don’t think that I heard any new ideas about how either candidate was going to move this country forward and improve the lives of ordinary citizens. It really was disheartening to see that at the end of the day, despite the promise of hope made four years ago, running for president is still just a popularity contest where form often beats substance.
Prior to the debate we had a discussion session that mirrored the actual debate in the sense that no one wanted to talk about foreign policy despite my sincerest efforts to lead the conversation in that direction. The discussion mainly centered on topics covered in my last few blogs, so I will just briefly share some general thoughts and observations. Facilitating the IF discussions has been very interesting, as it has allowed me to meet a variety of people I would not have met otherwise, hear the concerns of Americans from all walks of life, discuss issues at a higher level than usual, and get a better sense of what I actually believe in. Upon reflection I don’t think that most of the people that I encountered during the debate watch events, or during previous discussion sessions on a basic level aren’t very different from one another. Everyone brings a lifetime of beliefs and experience to the table and they want their beliefs and experiences to be reflected in our national leaders.
Throughout, I never got the sense that there was a higher calling that we answered to as Americans, which placed an emphasis on talking less and listening more, stepping out of our own narrow world view and embracing the concept of being an American and not black, white, muslim, Italian, etc. I don’t mean this in a negative way, because as I have become acutely aware during the IF discussions people are very complex and not always what they appear to be; however, as my comments above indicate in my view we are not getting the service that we deserve from our elected officials, but until we are able to see the bigger picture as citizens, we will get the leadership that we deserve. Life will go on regardless of who wins the election, but in order to make sure our democracy stays strong we need to continue educating ourselves on the issue and talking amongst ourselves.