Should debate crowds be allowed to vocally support candidates during debates?
Should the same rules apply to both the primary and general election debates?
Yes and no. I think they should be allowed to offer applause when a candidate says something that they agree with; I do not think it is appropriate to yell out anything or boo though.
The answer is a resounding, “yes!” Crowds at debates are entitled to express themselves within civil limits, regardless of the phase of the election in which a debate is taking place. I know there are several professionals that work in the Washington media that disagree with this, and understandably so, because it can detract from the substance of the debate. The bigger concerns that need to be addressed about political debate in the U.S.A. include the substance of questions that are being asked during the debate, the amount of control the moderator actually exercises during the debate, and the debate formats that are selected.
Debates are one of the most public ways that the electorate has to see the character of their candidates, and one of those characteristics that the public needs to see is how a candidate handles public criticism, such as being “booed” at. All of the men and women who choose to run in the presidential primary know that it is one of the most public and revealing things that an individual in the country can do, and as such they need to be willing to accept and endure the effects of their choice.
This question stems from the recent South Carolina debate which put former Speaker Newt Gingrich over the top in the South Carolina primary. I watched this debate, and trust me; the audience’s participation had little to do with the results in the primary. Between the recent polls and Mr. Gingrich’s debate performance it is clear that much of the electorate had not decided on a candidate until the last few days. Gingrich speaks to the frustrations of the electorate in South Carolina, where they are looking for someone who will best be able to unseat our President. I will remind the reader that South Carolina’s make-up doesn’t represent the nation at large.
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