Primaries, Debates, and Figuring out who to Vote For
I believe that the Republicans have now held three major debates running up to the primary election. It seems to me, from reading commentary and the way the media portrays these debates, that the only function of these debates is to figure out which candidate to vote for. That is a terrible way to view the debate process, and because of this idea, it effectively silences all the candidates except the front-runners.
Take Ron Paul for example. He is definitely the weird uncle of the Republican primaries. I'm not going to vote for him, but I sincerely wish that he would get more time in the primary spotlight. Republicans need to hear the guy say what he says about Social Security, Medicare, and "preemptive attacks" on sovereign nations. Not necessarily because we need to adopt Ron Paul's views, but because we need to know that there are alternative view points.
Here is what is important to remember. Just because we elect Rick Perry, Barack Obama, or whomever America chooses, it does not mean that we have elected them whole-cloth, and that we can never oppose any of their agendas. Besides this, we may not completely agree with a certain agenda, but may simply wish it were more nuanced. Debates are supposed to help us do this with ideas. Debates are supposed to refine ideas and make them better.
Let's pretend that Rick Perry is your guy. You agree with him on 80% of what he says. But on the issue of Social Security, you actually like what Ron Paul says, with whom you agree with only 40% of the time. But to your dismay, Ron Paul is virtually ignored in the debates, and because Romney and Perry only want to talk about troop deployment, the serious issue of Social Security never even comes up. Worse, if Ron Paul drops out, you fear the subject will be virtually ignored. So you really, really want Ron Paul to stay in the race but you also really, really want him to lose because he is daft enough to say out loud that Iran should be allowed to have nukes!
The educated voter needs to have a good grasp of the issues. He needs to listen to the debates to see which ideas he likes the best. After he has his issues and ideas prioritized, then he can go about measuring the candidacy of each individual. This gives the voter the advantage of knowing his candidates strengths and weaknesses, and give him the ability to communicate to his preferred candidate his concerns should he get elected. It is our duty, as citizens of the United States, to respect our elected officials, but also to communicate to them our concerns in a respectful manner.
It is probably too early to have chosen a candidate for office. Unless, of course, you are a Democrat who thinks President Obama has done a bang up job, or you have followed the career of a particular candidate enough to know that this is your candidate no matter who else runs.