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New England Town Meetings: The Cradle of Democracy?

New England Town Meetings: The Cradle of Democracy?
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (R) speaks as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 19, 2016. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

By Tuesday, 16 October 2018 05:42 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The meetings in the towns of New England compete with Athens for that designation, not to mention dueling with the Iowa corn dog gnawing caucuses that bring out smiling candidates and the networks.

I have done several blogs here about the election for Town Representative in Westport, Connecticut, between incumbent Steinberg and challenger Kraut. Maybe it is these days that I prefer lawn signs and door-to-door campaigning to network television.

Last week, that campaign for Town Rep moved indoors for a debate that luckily was captured on video.

Someone I know for a long time, call him Kelly, reminisced about presidential debates in his lifetime beginning, of course, with the first one that he saw when he 16 in his senior year of high school. He did for me an almost filmic flashback to all the debates since then and their singular moments.

Nixon sweating and Kennedy cool.

Ford freeing Poland years ahead of Gdansk.

Reagan’s “There he goes again.”

Reagan absolving Mondale for his youth and inexperience.

Dukakis even duller than Bush.

Bush looking at his watch.

Did Dole debate Clinton?

Bush doing a jump take double take as Al Gore appeared in yet another style shirt and sought to be aggressive.

Bush and Kerry, two Skull and Bones guys, trying to look like they weren’t tapped.

Obama and McCain, my friend remembered less of this one than Dole vs. Clinton.

Romney beats Obama and three days later Ryan forgets what he is there for (remind viewers of what they saw Sunday night) and the Congressman instead takes on the guffawing Biden.

Trump and Clinton, less a debate than a joint appearance.

My friend, Kelly, muses that political debates have become now the coffin of democracy.

He may be right on the national scene of seventeen candidates fighting for a moment of time on camera and microphone, but he is emphatically wrong about New England’s debates.

Here we actually see solutions offered and problems defined. True we hear the back and forth negative stuff and personal attacks that bring Fox News and MSNBC to mind instead of C-Span and Alistair Cook.

But the cradle has to rock for the voter to stay awake.

I showed my friend Kelly the videos and asked him to grab the moment or moments to remember a la Kennedy-Nixon if not Clinton-Dole.

“Bad year in Connecticut and Westport for an incumbent,” he thought. Of course, he lives in Florida and isn’t even registered to vote down there.

P.S. A week later they debated again. This time in front of Westport high school students, most of whom are too young to vote in anything other than student council elections. The incumbent did generate the best laugh line when he claimed that his biggest weakness is that he always tells the truth.

Tom Messner worked forever in advertising. In politics, he avoided the predictable negative bent and did positive ads for Reagan in 1984 and for Bush in 1988 along with Bush’s convention film. The agency he co-founded created NASDAQ’s first branding, Volvo’s comeback, and Fox News’s "We Report. You Decide." Then learning from the pols he partnered with (Roger Ailes in particular), they brought attack ads to such formerly benign areas such as telecom (MCI). At 73, he’s doing two things he never did before: Blogging here on wildly unconnected subjects coming on the heels of last year’s adventure: the writing of his first play, a musical "Dogs" destined now for either Broadway or The Pound. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The meetings in the towns of New England compete with Athens for that designation, not to mention dueling with the Iowa corn dog gnawing caucuses that bring out smiling candidates and the networks.
new england, democracy, presidential debates
Tuesday, 16 October 2018 05:42 PM
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