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Dull LA guberantorial debate provided no surprises

As I have noted elsewhere, and this has been particularly true since political campaigns became largely controllable by candidates through their electronic advertising and direct mail strategies, candidate “debates” are consumed by only a small portion of the electorate and, unless some tremendous blunder occurs, will influence few voters’ choices. (They aren’t really debates because there’s little give-and-take among candidates, and they are given impossibly short windows in which to provide anything more than the most simplistic or superficial answers.)

The format of this encounter, arranged by the Louisiana Public Broadcasting network, did not deviate from this sound-bite extravaganza. Nonetheless, perhaps to make themselves seem more relevant to an election season, the media love to have them and so to perform my civic duty to readers I watched the first of the live television debates among the considered top candidates for Louisiana’s governorship. There’s no reason to give a summary of what was asked and how who answered, because that can be done elsewhere. Instead, I will neatly summarize the candidates’ gestalten:

Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso – Jindal bad, me good; other than that, I can speak in broad, unverifiable platitudes about what needs to be done in this state.

Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell – clueless about how the world works and therefore in suggesting and implementing realistic public policy that could improve the state.

Independent John Georges – a businessman is needed to solve the state problems, without the realization that government and business are very different things; it is the implementation of the right ideas, not the execution of government’s business in an improved way, which will improve things.

Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal – cut taxes, change priorities in spending, attack corruption, and reemphasize school discipline that will get the state right back on track.

The most interesting moment came when the Baton Rouge Advocate’s (which editorially despises Jindal) editor Carl Redman predictably asked Jindal about the role his faith would play in governance, particularly related to the issue of abortion and the teaching of intelligent design in schools. Intended to make Jindal look narrow-minded and dogmatic, Jindal turned the tables with his reply that faith informed his desire to serve others, that as governor he would uphold the law concerning abortion, and that the best-educated students came from teaching them about everything connected to science.

The least interesting moments came courtesy of Campbell, who presented a caricature of an uninformed ideologue who misbegottenly blamed ills on outside, unseen forces and, frankly, made one feel sorry for him as an anachronism whom the world had left behind preventing him from contributing much of anything in the way of public policy, much less serve as governor.

Other than Campbell appearing as a crank overly concerned with Louisiana relative to Mississippi and Arkansas, there were little the candidates said that would affect their public support. In that sense, this exercise provided little surprise. If really interested in politics, the forum presented some mild entertainment value; if not, you were better off watching Survivor.


Anonymous said...

Wawta Bwasso's pawdy lef' him in da wawda fa eight days. Dey lied to 'im. Dass why he'z a Democrat na.

We need that guy to represent our state as Governor.

Anonymous said...

Exercise, exercise. We need the Professor's insight and common sense for many years to come. There is no superior political student and writer in the entire state.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, the great media folks at WWL-TV New Orleans reported that Cambell improved his standing with his performance in the debate (asserting the attraction of his foreign oil processing tax idea, and hinting of a total repeal of all other taxes). Apparently, most of the Baton Rouge/New Orleans media have also become an anachronism. Either I was watching a different debate, or the good folks at WWL have ingested one too many Zoloft capsules.

Jeff Sadow said...

That is an excellent example of the limitations of this format. Knowing nothing else about the candidates, the unsophisticated idle potential voter tuning in might be taken in with Campbell's assertion that he has a "plan" when in fact he has none other than an unworkable new tax that he says one expert think would work (neglecting to say a number of independent experts say very much the opposite). In three minutes, Campbell's entire platform could be mortally dissected and discredited ... but nobody gets more than a minute in this format and they have their own platforms and ideas to express (or opportunities to attack Jindal if your name is Boasso or Georges).

But, let's say Jindal is forced into a runoff with Campbell. Then Jindal will have plenty of minutes over and over again on the paid airwaves to expose Campbell's folly and lack of a plan. Then it's lights out for Campbell, and another demonstration of how much more informative paid ads are than the artificial nature of these "debates" where simplicity reigns, emotional arguments can't get challenged, and fiction can masquerade as fact.

Anonymous said...

You must have watched a different debate than the rest of us. Your support of Jindal is disappointing when as many pointed he is a government worker not a leader. We need leaders with couragae - not paper pushers being advised by Mike Foster.

Jeff Sadow said...

I guess we did ... maybe you weren't even watching the LA gubernatorial debate? Who's the only candidate that has held an administrative position in state government (in fact, heading the department with the second-largest budget)? Jindal. Campbell and Boasso have served on legislatures of various kinds and Georges hasn't ever been elected to office (although appointed to a board). So of those four who would you think has the most experience, as a leader, in admnistering government (which is totally different from doing so in the private sector)?