Watching the first presidential debate through non-voting-age eyes

New strategy for Debate No. 2?

In a bolt of unmitigated cruelty, Wednesday night I made my boys stay up and watch as much of the first presidential debate as they could stand. Most adults tune into these debates with the baggage of their political convictions and 18 months of inane campaigning. So I was especially curious about how my 10-year-old would interpret it, since in 2020 1) he will be eligible to vote and 2) I will likely fall over dead because of 1).

The night began promisingly, when a pundit’s reference to “battleground states” piqued his interest. From there, we launched into a discussion of the Electoral College, and how some states were worth more than others based on their relative population. And he said, “Oh, so the Electoral College is a lot like Risk, right?”

Right. Except the battle for Ohio hasn’t devolved into a battle of armed cavalry units. YET.

Of course, the discourse was lost on them. But you can argue that, in this post-factual age, the discourse didn’t matter, anyway. Many pundits have weighed in on Romney‘s and Ryan’s battles with the truth, but so much more ink has been spilled, it seems, on visuals. Body language, vitality, willingness to make eye contact. And Romney won on all three counts.

(It actually reminded me of when the boys look to me to referee a dispute. The little boy looks at me, and the big boy (who is often the guilty party) looks at the little boy. Only I sure as hell don’t get steamrolled like Jim Lehrer did.)

It turns out, semantics is all a candidate needs. Because after the debate was over, my son looked at me and said, “Dad, I think you should vote for Romney, because he will lower your taxes. And then you can buy more stuff for us.”

I hope the president does a better job holding Romney’s feet to the fire next time around.

Read more from Doug on his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad.

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