September 28, 2016

My Take on the First Presidential Debate

Donald Trump - PortraitMy take on the first presidential debate is fairly simple and does not require a lengthy exposition. I was disappointed but not surprised that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein were not invited to participate. I suspect that their involvement would have shown voters that they have other options besides the two candidates who were invited. Moreover, I think that their presence probably would have made both of the major party candidates look even less suited for the job than they did.

With that out of the way, I'll consider the question of who won the debate. I am doing this from the perspective of someone who does not support either of the two candidates who participated in the debate. I think there are three ways of looking at this question. First, we can set aside expectations of each candidate coming into the debate, focusing instead on the typical way of evaluating debate performance (e.g., the debaters' grasp of the subject matter, delivery, points scored against the opponent). Second, we can emphasize the pre-debate expectations, comparing how each debater performed relative to his or her expected performance. Third, we can focus on whether each debater accomplished the specific objectives he or she needed to accomplish, something that typically differs for each candidate and is expected to matter in the sense of attracting undecided voters.

September 27, 2016

You Just Gotta Believe

The Belief Wall
The Belief Wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I was about 14 and struggling to come to terms with what I was just beginning to recognize as a lack of god belief, I sought help from several Christians. You see, I had no desire to stop believing in gods. I found the prospect terrifying. Everyone I knew believed. What sort of future could I have if I could not do so? I desperately wanted to keep believing, and so I asked Christians I trusted for help. Again and again, I was told, "You just gotta believe!"

Most of the Christians I spoke with were perfectly willing to acknowledge that there was no conclusive proof of gods or any other supernatural entities. They pointed to the need for faith in such matters; faith meant that they believed without requiring the sort of evidence they would usually require to support their beliefs. The lack of evidence was not a problem for them. They just believed, and they told me that I needed to do the same.

September 26, 2016

The Two-Party System is Broken

Trump & Clinton
Donald Trump by Rob13; Hillary Clinton by Gage Skidmore
I wrote this post a couple weeks ago. I suppose it might be more than a coincidence that I'm finally getting around to posting it on the day of the first televised debate between the two major party candidates who have been allowed to participate; however, I wrote it before I was thinking about the debates.

Something occurred to me recently while I was mowing the yard in the Mississippi heat (93 degrees with a heat index of 103 due to the humidity). I really don't want to see either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House. I'm not claiming that they are equally bad. I think I've been quite clear that I do not believe that is the case. Compared to Trump, I regard Clinton as at least a somewhat lesser evil in at least some ways. And as I've said before, I would probably try to force myself to vote for her if I lived in a swing state. It is getting harder by the day to imagine that I'd be able to go through with it, but I'd probably try. Still, I'm not crazy about the prospect of either of them being our next president.

September 21, 2016

How to Rig an Election: The 2016 Presidential Election

presidential election 2016
In Part I of this series, I looked at the 2016 Democratic primary and how our mainstream news media provided Hillary Clinton with an unfair advantage over her competitors by labeling her "the presumptive nominee" and pushing the narrative of her inevitability even before we new who might run against her. In Part II, I considered the 2016 Republican primary and how our mainstream news media provided Donald Trump with an unfair advantage over his competitors by devoting far more coverage to him than all his competitors combined. In both cases, we had the luxury of being able to examine the entire span of time from when the first candidate entered the contest until both parties held their conventions. We do not have that advantage here because the 2016 general election is not yet over. Thus, this post is going to have to be more speculative.

Once Trump secured the Republican nomination and Clinton locked up the Democratic nomination, the primaries were over. It was no longer necessary for anyone in our news media to pretend that they needed to cover any of the candidates who were not nominated. The story they had worked so hard to engineer was the one they got. That chapter is over, and it is time to move on. And yet, one would do well to remember that there are other candidates in the general election contest (e.g., Jill Stein and Gary Johnson) who are receiving virtually no coverage from our mainstream news media. In other words, we are continuing to see clear evidence that our news media are influencing the general election much as they influenced the primaries. They are still providing Trump and Clinton with an unfair degree of coverage, only now this is working to the detriment of third party candidates.

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