Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Exactly Did Mitt Romney Win?

He did it: Mitt Romney won the debate.  Ask anyone.

Mitt Romney looked presidential.

And apparently the man who actually is the president didn’t ‘look like’ a president, whatever that means.

I’ll get to who I think won the substantive debate another time, but I’m very clear on who lost and it wasn’t either of the men on stage last night.  It was the pundits and pollsters and people who ‘decided’ the win/loss based on beauty pageant criteria.

In case I wasn’t clear, WE are the losers.

I continue to wonder what people who simply listened to the debate on the radio, or the blind, think of who ‘won’ or ‘lost’.  I know television is a visual medium, but don’t you think it’s bit ridiculous that John F. Kennedy was declared the winner against Richard Nixon because of make-up and its lack?  Or do we really comfort ourselves that the national judgment against Nixon that fateful night was somehow clairvoyant about the man Nixon was or would become?  Really?  Or did we just get lucky?

Here’s the reality check: you can’t tell much about a man by how he looks (or a woman, for that matter).  And that’s the truth.  Ask any woman who has been raped by someone she knows.  Or the parents of a child abused by someone they entrusted with their dearest treasure.

Our visual ‘truth’, ‘goodness’, and ‘character’ detectors are notoriously faulty.

I had an initial reaction last night about the debate winner and loser based on content.  As I said in yesterday’s blog, I flowed the debate.  That meant that I spent much of my time head down, listening and taking notes about what I heard and almost no time at all, save during the opening and closing remarks, to watching the two men.  Their visual impact on me was quite limited.  Thus my own ‘take’ about what was happening was very different than other folks in the room.  The things they had noted I did not see.  My not seeing was actually intentional: I wanted to minimize, as best I could, my own biases and preconceptions and come to a conclusion based on the content of the debate.  Of course it’s impossible to totally free one’s self of the baggage brought to any experience, but there are tricks to detaching even from ourselves: avoiding the visuals is one of them.

As Gwen Ifill noted after the debate, the punditry had asked for a policy wonk debate (one where the debaters actually addressed the issues rather than engaging in political tap dancing), but once they got one, they judged the two men according to the rules of tap dancing. (I paraphrase freely, of course).

Like I said, I’m on my way to flow the contents of the debate to come to my own conclusions about who carried the day.  I’ll let you know my results.

In the meantime, can we all just take a breath and ponder what each man actually had to say and what it means for the governance of our country and stop thinking about who ‘looked’ the part?  Please?

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