#DebateMatters. It Should in Ghana too!!!



Over a hundred million people in continental America and the world over stayed up late to watch what they knew was going to be ninety minutes of back and forth filled with ad hominem between two candidates tagged as the worst in America’s modern history. The 2016 US elections has been reduced to the ridicule fodder CNN and other western media houses used to make of most African elections. Policies have little place in conversations, with insults and name calling being the order of the day.

Keeping vigil on a Monday night in order to listen to some form of substance was a worthy price to pay for the basket of undecided voters who do not want to be forced to simply choose “the lesser evil” between the two. It was also the natural thing to do for political enthusiasts the world over. If you care about world peace, you definitely do want to know if the
“twitter fingers” candidate had cultured the temperance to handle the thousands of nukes at the disposal whoever occupied the oval office.

Debate offers a pristine opportunity to discern between opposing viewpoints. It pits two ideas against each other in a moderated manner, affording viewers sanity in their bid to make a choice. A debate occurs when strings of cogent arguments are put forth in defense of a position by one side while the other presents contradicting viewpoints. It is not enough for the second side to simply drop their points. Engagement of issues must occur. Beyond the submission of positive matter, which is roughly defined as a debater’s position on the motion which is not contrived from the opponent’s arguments, rebuttals, identification of tensions in arguments among others must occur. For a collegiate level debater, the basics of the elements mentioned in the preceding paragraph are a must in every debate. As you proceed higher, its nuancing becomes a must.

During yesterday’s debate, we saw one side that had some level of grasp over this. Not restricted by the rigors of a college level debate, this side flexed its way around hitting home the substantives of its main policies. The clarification was very present and so was the direct appeal to the audience. There was control over facial expressions and restraint to not heckle. To some level, engaging the other side was done.

On the other side, well the least said, the better. Heckling incessantly, ad hominem, false claims and repeated waffling between unrelated points and 40 mile dashes away from the subject matter.

For a presidential debate, we knew who was suited for the oval office after 90 minutes. The distinction between the two was as clear as daylight. To be president, eloquence and clarity of thought is necessary. It is not enough to envision “Making America Great Again”, you need to cogently tell voters how you are going to do that.

The importance of debate in democracies cannot be overstated. In a system which presents the citizenry with a 1001 choices, the need to make an informed choice is self-enforcing. Choices made in democracies are binding for whatever period a tenure lasts and thus voters must critically assess what is presented before them. Debates make this possible!!!

In what transpired yesterday, viewers knew after 90 minutes which side had a better solution to the issue of race in America. Was “stop and frisk”, an unconstitutional practice which had little success the best way to ensure “law and order” or was communal policing and the retraining of police to curb implicit bias enough? More than that, a debate with enough representatives would should voters that both options are still woefully inadequate to address the issue of race. An extension of the debate would question how the issue of race must border entirely on the Criminal Justice System while excluding other systemic issues in employment, education etc.

The 2016 election campaign in Ghana has so far been reduced to 1this 1that like an Oprah Winfrey show. The two major parties have been on a promising spree all around the country with the smaller parties following suit. Some of the stuff being promised even though ridiculous sounding might actually be feasible. Once you quantify the amount we have lost to corruption over the decade, you realize how much funds we do have at our disposal.

So how then do we know which party has the workable solutions to our problems? Are the morning show rants on Peace FM, Joy FM and the rest enough? Or is a PowerPoint lecture like the one Bawumia gave, enough to aid us make a choice? What these two options lack are moderation in the first one contesting positions in the second. Debate matters in such matters!!!

It is very unfortunate that no debate shall be held in this election year. We have been robbed of a 3 hour departure from squalid politics and a name calling Olympic. Not that a debate is going to have a dent on the voting calculus of most Ghanaians but that portion of our society called floating voters deserved to have some metric to use in the decision making other than tribal, geographic or religious affiliation. And the intransigent voters also owed it to themselves to reaffirm the never changing choice they made when the casted their first ballot ever.

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