Does Bad Behavior Turn Off Voters? | KCET
Does Bad Behavior Turn Off Voters?
Last week two debates between federal candidates made national news. The first was, of course, the Vice Presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan. As I watched both the debate and my twitter feed a few things became clear. First, this was a much livelier debate than the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. Second, we were going to spend a good deal of time talking about Biden's smiles, chuckles, tone, and other mannerisms.
This is another way of saying that we judge candidates on their appearances and affections all of the time. Many of us spent a good deal of time talking about the fact that in the first debate it looked like President Obama might want to be somewhere else. Substance matters, but appearance and style matter as well. But what happens when two candidates agree on most of the substance but have markedly different styles?
The public has become all too accustomed to politicians behaving badly. By which I mean they call each other names, stretch the truth, and figuratively sling mud at each other. But a funny thing happened at the debate between Berman and Sherman last week, that figurative slinging of mud almost turned literal. At one point Sherman put his arm around Berman and aggressively questioned, "You want to get into this?"
Berman and the public should say "no." We most definitely do not want to get into "this" if "this" means physical altercations between political candidates. Our system of government is set up to allow for a robust, and at time contentious debate about the issues. Physical altercations are, to be charitable, counterproductive and feed into the dislike and distrust of politicians. Schoolyard squabbles have no place in political campaigns.
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