Debate As Fast Food

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

So tonight we have coming up the second debate between the two American presidential candidates. There is already great anticipation, since the first one reminded us all that these can indeed materially effect presidential races, as seen in the recovery of Mitt Romney’s poll numbers over the past two weeks. All the Obama fans out there will be desperate for the President to perform rather better this time.

But how about a reality check from the leading Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende?

Amerikanske seere vil ikke have saglig information, men en klar vinder i præsident-debatterne



Yes, it’s Danish, let me give you a translation of the piece’s lede:

[TV] Viewers don’t want to have factual information in this sort of a debate, they want to have a winner, and the post-debate talk of TV commentators means more for the outcome than the debate itself.

C’mon, admit it! It’s true! The writer of this piece, Poul Høi (who was Berlingske’s US correspondent for a long time, and whom this blog has covered before), likens this to what people generally tell pollsters they prefer to eat – wholesome, organic food, of course! – versus the fast food a World Health Organization study has shown they consistently chow down instead. We’re all just fooling ourselves.

But the real problem is that Obama would definitely win re-election if the decision was up to Danish voters, and certainly if up to the Danish press. Høi makes no secret that he was terrified by Obama’s performance last time, and the related prospect that Mitt Romney could actually win the presidency. From the latter’s demeanor – reinforced by Joe Biden’s subsequent forceful performance in the VP debate – it’s clear to him that it doesn’t matter what one says, victory instead goes to whomever is perceived as the bigger “Alpha male.” That is what Barack Obama has to make himself into tonight.

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