Thursday, October 18, 2012

Historians Weigh-In on the Second Presidential Debate

AHA Today has posted a historian's forum on the Tuesday night's second presidential debate.  The commentators include Ed Blum, Patricia Limerick, Daniel Rodgers, and Jonathan Zimmerman

Here is a taste of Limerick's piece:

Nostalgia for an imagined golden age does not enhance a historian’s job performance.

And yet election-year debates pull me off track and into a deep swamp of nostalgia.  Within minutes of a debate’s start, I am lost in yearning for a past era when candidates made their cases in substantive, cogent, and thorough ways. 

By a mysterious numerology, we have, as a society, determined that “two minutes” is the right unit of time for an aspiring office-holder to take an enormously complicated issue and squish it into utterly improbable simplicity.  It does not help that at least thirty seconds of those two-minute units must be devoted to flailing at one’s opponent, since energetic walloping of the rival stands as the key criterion used by pundits, both on camera and on social media, to distinguish winner from loser.