A political campaign ‘listen to this’

When I was in graduate school I took a class on political communication. The professor was a famous and renowned pollster. And after a day or two the professor would ask the class a question and the class just looked at me.

I was conscientious of that. I didn’t want to be that guy, but they were pretty clear that I should be that guy. The professor would later become my committee chair, did me a few solid favors in the program and later took credit for introducing me to my wife.

He was only slightly wrong about that, but he’d earned the literacy license with me.

So esteemed was Dr. Powell in our eyes that, despite him asking us for years to address him by his first name, “Because we are colleagues,” we all still refer to him as Dr. Powell. He’s a good man.

And I was thinking of him while I was interviewing Dr. Gerald Wright, who is in the political science department at IU. We talked about the upcoming presidential debates. So I was very happy for the opportunity, because this is the part of politic campaigns that I like: the message construction, the real body work.

The debates, probably not as much. They’re important, but they’re not. You know what you know about the candidates. You like who you like. And not much that can happen at a debate, or even a series of them, will move people who have made up their minds.

They’re debates, but they’re not. The formats aren’t really debates anymore. We don’t know all of the details about this debate cycle, yet, but there’s little to suggest the previous sentence will be wrong. It has been written that they’re basically press conferences in their current form, and that’s not exactly wrong.

They’re entertaining and informative, but they’re not. You have to follow and know politics to be entertained by them. If that describes you, you won’t learn much that’s continually informative for you. If you’re apathetic to the process in general — and far, far too many are — then you’re probably not watching, or paying only scant attention anyway.

They’re a part of the process, but they’re mostly just a tradition at this point. It’d be terrific, from the perspective of civics, if they were more than an academic study. I’m sure Dr. Powell will have a great deal to discuss with his classes during and after the debates. And I bet Dr. Wright will, as well. You get the impression, from the interview above, that he’ll have a lot to say to his students’ benefit.

He asked, before I could remind him, if I wanted the soundbite answers or the professorial answers. You’ve no idea how much I wanted to insist on the really in-depth stuff.

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