The Debate in Historical Perspective

Many people are frustrated with the level of debate these days, and it is not uncommon to wax nostalgic for the good old days, the days when debates were entirely live, in person, and went on and on until they were done, unconstrained by a television schedule. Bioephemera takes us down memory lane.

The first televised American presidential debate: NIxon vs. Kennedy. Kennedy won the debate and the election, and most historians of the era would claim that the debate mattered in that election:

And now, a look at a more recent debate, which proves, unfortunately, that it does not matter who wins the debate, but rather, it only matters who fixes the election:

(Hat tip: The unexamined life)

And, Mark over at The Divine Afflatus mentions something about this first 2008 presidential debate that had not dawned on me: Where was Sarah Palin in the post-debate spin fest? Interesting question.


  1. #1 mark
    September 28, 2008

    (Thanks for the link.)
    Yeah, too often the debate format has been little more than quickie responses to moderator’s questions (and often skipping around the questions). With the Kennedy-Nixon debate, some folks claim that those who heard it on the radio thought Nixon won, whereas those who watched it on tv were severely influenced by Nixon’s 5-o’clock shadow.
    What disappoints me more than the debates, however, is the inability of politicians to write their own material. Sure, Bob Hope and Jack Benny had staffs of writers, but they had to present new jokes every week.

  2. #2 Damien
    September 28, 2008

    What I’m even more depressed by is the fact that the Republican part hasn’t changed a bit, and yet the very people they rail against keep FREAKING VOTING THEM INTO OFFICE!