Teaching the 2016 Election: Presidential Debates of Paramount Importance in Too-Close-To-Call Contest

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar and Barb Laimins, Teacher Mentor Liaison

We return to the presidential race in today’s post, setting the stage for tonight’s prime time debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Fifty-six years ago today John F. Kennedy squared off with Richard Nixon right here in Chicago for the first televised presidential debate in history. Kennedy’s triumph paved the way for the narrowest of victories on Election Night, and after a brief interlude, the two major party nominees have debated every four years since 1976.

Like 1960, the 2016 presidential election is too-close-to-call at this moment. It has tightened significantly since Clinton enjoyed a post-convention bounce, as she clings to a narrow lead in an average of recent polls, many of them within the margin-of-error.

A strong debate performance by either candidate (or a poor one) could shift the race by three or four points, allowing Clinton to open a more comfortable lead, or for Trump to inch ahead himself.

The candidates certainly present a contrast in style and substance, and a Super Bowl-size television audience will decide if either or both pass the commander-in-chief test.

Absent from the stage are Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, nominees of the Libertarian and Green Parties, respectively. Johnson came closest to qualifying, but failed to meet the 15% threshold set by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Unfortunately for both third party candidates, voters will see the bi-polar choice starkly on tonight’s stage and may ultimately settle for the “lesser of two evils.”

With the primaries, veepstakes, and nominating conventions in our rear view mirrors, the three presidential debates (and one vice presidential debate) stand as the remaining flashpoints in Election 2016, and perhaps the ultimate teachable moments. A few resource recommendations are certainly in order.
Now grab that popcorn (and bingo card) and enjoy tonight’s main event!

No comments :

Post a Comment