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Tuesday, Sep 1, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
by David Greenberg
Daedalus (Spring 2009)

“An underlying premise of the discourse about the presidential debates is that they exist to inform viewers, who watch them with open minds to learn about the candidates and decide how to vote. In other words, granthose as it may sound, our culture assigns the debates a vital democratic role : democratic theory holds that effective selfgovernment depends on an informed citizenry, and the debates, more than any other vehicle, are supposed to teach voters what they still need to know about the candidates in the fall of a presidential election season. Accordingly, we eagerly anticipate these contests as potential turning points for the campaigns, the only scheduled events that might by design win or lose votes for one candidate or the other overnight. Journalists invariably speak of them as a rare chance for those aU-important undecided voters to make up their endlessly wavering minds. In recent years networks have even convened focus groups of the vacillators on whose fleeting impressions the nation hinges, interviewing them on air after each clash to see if they were moved to reach any decisions that might collectively alter a campaign’s outcome.”


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