I’d like to take a moment and respond to a recent media piece from U.S. News & World: “Our Bland Presidential Debates” by Jamie Stiehm.
It starts out like this: “Quick, who’s ever heard of Lynn University?” and it details how debates “should be held at great centers of learning, or history, or architecture, or awesome natural beauty—jazzy places that energize the event, that sing of America.” You can read the entire piece here.
Stiehm provides a history lesson on how thousands of people gathered across the plains just to hear the Lincoln v. Douglas debates. She writes that debate settings used to matter and that she can’t tell her readers why Lynn was chosen to host the third Presidential debate.
Florida is one of the most pivotal states in the upcoming election. Both candidates have made routine visits to the state. Boca Raton is even the town in which the now famous 47% video was captured. Florida is the definition of the “battleground state.” What’s more is that the Lynn University administration worked tirelessly to bring the debate to this school.
Thousands of people will descend on Lynn in the next few weeks from all across the world, not the just from the Illinois plains. Millions will watch the debate on television. I don’t think Lincoln would have thought reaching that many people was “bland.”
I also have to say that Lynn does sing of America. It sings of an America with a growing internationality, with divided views and philosophies. It sings of the melting pot. That’s what I was always taught America was and that was what made it great.
Do I think Harvard or Yale would be a good venue for a debate? Sure. Do I think holding every debate at centers like Harvard gives an accurate view of America? Of course not. Even if the debate was held at the foot of Mount Rushmore, under the watchful eyes of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, I don’t think it would inspire the candidates to take more risks or be less bland. The viewers at home would still only see a red, white, and blue backdrop.
And to slam the Presidential Debate Commission for being non-partisan and ensuring no party gets an advantage in the debate, that just seems silly. Does anyone in their right mind want a partisan commission running these things? I’ll take seemingly unimportant coin flips over what glassware to use instead partisanship every time.
So let us have our day. This is an opportunity to introduce the world to Lynn.
And don’t kid yourself. I think Jamie Stiehm would have been thrilled to host a Presidential debate at Swarthmore College while she was there, even if it was “bland.”