Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dumned-Down Political Debate

I recently wrote an article for the Charles Colson Center in which I compared contemporary presidential debates with the political debates 150 years ago. I pointed out, for example, that the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 could sometimes last seven hours and were packed with richly developed intellectual argumentation. What a contrast this is with today, in which politicians typically offer us a succession of quick, disconnected points which attempt to convey a general impression of competence and trustworthiness while lacking in the rigors of analytical depth and philosophical sophistication.
Someone who has chronicled the gradual dumbing-down of American political discourse is Elvin T. Lim, political scientist from Wesleyan University. His 2008 publication The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush, looks specifically at presidential speeches, yet his observations have relevance across the spectrum of our nation’s political discussions.

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