Viewpoint: Presidential debates are some of the best parts of our system

By Danny Huizinga

A friend of mine posted a Facebook status about halfway through the presidential debate on Wednesday saying, “This debate is a waste of time.”

She’s wrong.

I’m reasonably confident that the rest of you are just as annoyed as I am by the constant Facebook posts, the speculation, and the back-and-forth arguing between people who say things they would never dream of saying in person.

But it’s all worth it. I posted one Facebook status about the debate, and this is what it said: “Whether you hate politics or whether you are a die-hard supporter of one of the candidates, watch this debate. This is one of the most amazing qualities of our democracy.”

We live in an amazing country. We live in a country where two candidates who have argued with each other for months through negative ads and straw-man attacks can now come together and discuss the issues in a respectful way.

One of my friends said, “Romney won the debate, but it doesn’t matter. Obama will get elected anyway.” If these debates are purely for influencing polls, then yes, they don’t have much effect.

The results of this debate (or any of the next three) are unlikely to change the election unless something stunning occurs.

However, I believe the debates serve a greater purpose than just “bouncing polls.” The debates also help to inform the uninformed as to the political issues being discussed.

Voters, if they simply choose to turn on the TV for two hours on Wednesday night, can learn a great deal about the problems facing our economy.

The debates bring up an excellent preview of what both candidates describe as “two fundamentally different paths” facing our country.

If you missed the presidential debate, at least watch the short section where the candidates discussed “the proper role of government.”

It’s a great starting point for understanding the underlying conflict between Republicans and Democrats.

The candidates also put forth many statistics, numbers, and specific policy arguments. Contrary from being “over the public’s head,” as some claimed, these types of facts allow for empirical and unbiased observation rather than flowery rhetoric.

Both candidates can (and did) say they “care for the middle class,” but looking at the numbers can offer a great deal of clarity.

Later this week, I’ll break down some of the specific quotes and arguments from the first debate. But until then, realize how blessed we are to have these debates.

Our government is a government that does not try to suppress political speech. We are able to have debates with unbiased moderators aired on national television, preventing censorship or selective editing.

The debates are not a waste of time. In fact, they are among the most valuable moments of elections.

I am grateful for these opportunities to participate in respectful political speech.

Danny Huizinga is a sophomore Baylor Business Fellow from Chicago. He manages the political blog Consider Again. Read more of his works at