FIRST 2016 DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: Political Civility Reconsidered?


Keywords or Terms: Civil Decorum; Political Issues; Democratic Party; Republican Party; Black Lives Matter; Bernie Sanders; Hillary Rodham Clinton; American Justice System; Climate Change; American Capitalism; Gun Violence; Debt-Free Higher Education; Changing Campaign Financial Rules; Raising the Federal Minimum Wage; Progressive Solutions


To adapt to a more civil decorum in discussing political issues in presidential debates, the Republican Party – along with the far right elements of their party, the tea party faction – will need to do some radical thinking regarding the approaches and methods of addressing pressing issues in the American narrative experience; including discussions of personal experiences, using publicity stunts, or resorting to bravado in explaining away domestic and or foreign issues, that affect the lives of Americans. Imagine Bernie Sander’s response to the question: whether Black Lives Matter? The erstwhile Senator from the State of Vermont succinctly said: “The reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail.” Democratic Party Presidential Aspirant Bernie Sanders did not sugar quote or avoid the question; he did not palatalize or erupt into self-aggrandizement to promote his campaign; he did not capitalize on his personal experience with families of victims of injustice; nor, resort to breathless campaign propaganda in the American narrative experience; he simply said, there is need for all of us to ask ourselves a simple question: Is the American Justice System serving every American, Asians, Blacks, Latinos, White, or what have you? This essentially is why for all intense and purposes, US Senator Bernie Sanders has been acclaimed for class, integrity and civility in his campaign for the Office of the President of the United States, in a world where the front runner for the 2016 Republican Party nomination has been built around breathless propaganda-laced media campaigning, with effusion of classless and insulting comments about a huge sector of American population.

The question of political civility needs to begin with the next Republican Presidential debate scheduled for October 28, 2015 at Coors Event Center, Boulder, Colorado. We may debate socialism against capitalism or question if we should afford for a different political doctrine to drive our governance; however, what we must never forget: 2016 Democratic Presidential Aspirants, beginning with Bernie Sanders, brought back civility in political discussions and debates at the first Democratic Party debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 13, 2015; and, Republicans can learn a lot from that debate. In a world where presidential debates are driven by television viewership and not the relevance of the content of issues impacting American lives and experience, there are going to be letters with comments such as: “Neither Mr. Trump or Dr. Carson will participate in your debate if it is longer than 120 minutes including commercials and does not include opening and closing statements.” Whether the Republicans know it or not, or the television executives driving the Republican Party Debate appreciate it or not, including FOXNEWS, CNN and CNBC, the purpose and essence of America’s Presidential Aspirants’ debate(s) are not to rake money for the networks or publicize the position of a narrow group within a political party; rather, it is to offer Americans, opportunity to witness serious deliberations over what impacts or would impact their lives and who is best to be in the driver’s seat, or in the helms of affairs of this nation, come Friday, January 20, 2017.


It is neither a competition between those in support of a reality-show guru, or emphasis centering on one aspect of American lives over another. It is not about entertainment and network television ratings, although network executives believe this is the main essence of the debate; however, it is more about: the process of elimination devoid of dazzle-dazzling commercials to line the pockets of a few. It is more about the Democracy of a Republic built on time tested doctrine of excellence of one-man, one-vote; although constitutional purists will raise objections to this latter characterization. For the records however, nowhere in the constitution does it say, the furtiveness of competition between the two political parties or among aspirants, Democrats or Republicans, seeking the office of the US Presidency, must rely on televised ratings or viewership of such discussions and or debates. 


The John Kennedy-Richard Nixon Televised watershed debate changed the dynamics of campaigning for the White House oval office; however, it was never meant to substitute, the old tested fight of ideas, devoid of entertainment that characterizes current day debate for the White House. To uphold the natural interest of Americans for issues affecting their bread and butter, it is essential that aspirants present their opinions and ideas regarding where they stand on an array of political, economic, social and foreign issues; and, the presidential debates offer each of these candidates a forum. Using television or internet broadcast as an outlet for these debates is acceptable; however, they are never to subsume the essence of the exercise. Mind you, no one is saying we must return to those olden days’ experience; rather, we must never allow a few self-centered propagandist or entertainers to hijack the altruism of our collective purpose as a nation, because of the medium of broadcast of the exercise.


Here are leadership questions impacting American lives as offered in the first Democratic Party debate at the Wynn Luxury Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Paradise, Nevada : 1) Countering Climate change and protecting African-Americans from police shooting and brutality; 2) Unfair-Criminal Justice System; 3) American-form of Capitalism and its associated excesses, including the disenfranchisement of the poor and middle classes; 4) Gun Violence and its associated menaces and difficulties; 5) Potential of a Debt-Free College Education for Americans; 6)  Changing Campaign Finance Rules; and, 7) Raising the federal minimum wage. These issues are considered moral imperatives and challenges facing the nation; and more than four candidates on the Democratic Party’s rostrum contend that for America to have a brighter tomorrow, answers and solutions must be provided.  With these deliberations, Democrats appear futuristic in their deliberations and contemplation, looking at what is ahead for America and attempting to provide policy solutions or answers to the thorny issues. Congruently, unlike Republicans and their past debates, Democrats see the issue of Gun Violence as a menace that continues to petrify the living hell among a huge number of Americans; with the leading Democratic Party aspirant for the 2016 nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton, advocating for tougher background checks and stricter regulations regarding the purchase and transfer of fire arms.


On issues of foreign interventions, especially with Syria, hardly any 2016 Democratic Party aspirant is completely subscribing to the age-old President John Kennedy’s inaugural Rhetoric – “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall… support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty” – every time some people’s liberty is threatened anywhere in the world. While Secretary Clinton considers Vladimir V. Putin a bully and would likely confront him as such, her immediate contender, Senator Bernie Sanders, would rather watch the Russian leader capitulate under the pressure of public opinions regarding war-time causalities from Russian people. One senses that Democrats are weighing whether Russians are logistically and financially capable of delivering significant outcome from their interventions in Syria; or, whether an intervention can truly bring about a desirable outcome that the public will support with American lives. The tricky thing is, Republicans are ready to engage with their war-mongering philosophy and are ready to damn the consequence the way they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan.


On the road to 2016 elections, there are issues regarding the number of debates offered by the Democratic Party; and, there has been criticisms in some quarters that the limited number of debates contemplated by the National Democratic Committee appears much of facilitating a coronation rather than promoting a robust process of wallowing and elimination. If Democrats restrict themselves, the nation may not have the privilege of having aspirants deliberate thoroughly issues that impact or may impact America. Republicans on their part, have to contend with the issue of wielding issues of deliberations, with some of their deliberated issues at the debates, looking more like an out-of-power party, with no precise issue that could catch the attention of the average American voter, or draw attention towards the Republicans’ viewpoints. This is why to a relative extent, drama and side-entertainments have consumed the process of sifting or weeding the huge number of Republican aspirants, fifteen as of date. The unfortunate and noticeable characterization of solution offered by the slate of Republicans, have made one wondered, if in reality, Republicans can field a viable candidate for the upcoming contest in 2016. Jeb Bush, the establishment candidate is not doing as well as Donald Trump, the so-called activist or far-right preferred candidate. Take one issue that seems in-congruent between leading Democratic and Republican Party candidates in the polls: while Democratic Party leading candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders offered progressive solutions and recommendations at the first debate on Climate change, with the later identifying the problem as the number one national security threat facing America, Donald Trump, has insistently denied decades of scientific research and evidence. No one can find a better reason, why more of these debates are essential for the American voter to have a truer choice in the upcoming election.
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