In re: No political discourse

So I was reminded of a theme from the History of the Peloponnesian War today while listening to a story on the radio about an awkward question and answer with George W. Bush as they had carefully screened folks at the session of course including an Iraqi general. Now back to the Peloponnesian war, what does this have to do with this? Well the downfall of Athens was connected to a fall in political discussion to a point where only shrill arguments existed. This can be seen in a large part here in America as there is no real debate.

Our president and other leaders are never subjected to real debate, having to think and discuss our actions. Not even in our political forums of the House and Senate do we have this as it is really just a place to ‘pad the record’ Some other democracies have institutionalized such discussion in ‘Question Hours’ where one must think and discuss. It seems we now take it for granted that our leaders won’t face tough question as supposed town hall meetings, something that is steeped in our political history are now an opportunity for discussing issues on one’s own terms rather than a true debate of ideas. Similarly the presidential debates are a carefully negotiated short series in which the format is set down and a real free for all can never exist.

The problem is also in our news media in that debates among commentators too have fallen to a shouting match where real ideas are rarely debated. Will this change? I doubt it, especially as now sound bites are what live on as many do not have the time to invest in following a debate or complex discussion, so carefully crafted messages that won’t fall into the pitfall of allowing a choice phrase to be lifted and used against a candidate or issue.


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