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Opinion: Debate didn’t help sway undecided voters

David Sabbagh

David SabbaghIf the purpose of Wednesday’s debate was to help undecided voters determine which candidate would be better for the country, it failed horribly.

Instead of a reasoned, back-and-forth discussion about the issues, viewers watched as both President Barack Obama and Gov. Romney spouted the same campaign rhetoric. It’s the same thing that they’ve repeated over and over in stump speeches throughout the campaign.

Romney said he would repeal Obamacare. Obama said that trickle-down politics doesn’t work. Romney said that we should never cut military spending. Obama blamed the deficit on the Bush administration.

They both used irrelevant personal anecdotes. Speech times were not adhered to. The unfortunate moderator, journalist Jim Lehrer, was shouted over, argued with, and outright ignored.

I am a debater, and I can promise you that is not how debate works. What debate should be is an articulate clash of opposing ideas, not a shouting match. No debater has the right to demand to have the final word, or to interrupt their opponent before they can finish their point.

But even worse for any undecided voter hoping this debate would help them make a decision, is that the factual errors abounded on both sides.

For example, Romney dug up the old argument from the 2008 election. He stated that the Affordable Health Care Act “puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can treatment they can have.”

However, the law specifically forbids the board from rationing care, adjusting rates or changing benefits. This argument is not any truer now than it was when Sarah Palin made it four years ago.

President Obama, meanwhile, argued that the only way for Romney’s budget plan to work would be for middle class families with children to pay $2,000 more a year in taxes. He based this argument off of a report from the Tax Policy Center.

But the report actually gives raising taxes on the middle class as only one of many possible scenarios for implementing Romney’s plan.

The expectation for the debate should have been the two candidates giving reasoned, truthful arguments about why their plan for the country is better than their opponents. But instead, all there was to see from the debate was a political shouting match.

If you’ve already made up your mind about this election, it might have excited you to see your candidate stand up and repeat the same things they’ve said at press conferences for the past year.

But regurgitating campaign slogans will not help the undecided voters who matter in this election make an educated decision.

Sabbagh, a freshman theatre arts major from Winston-Salem, is an opinion writer.

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