Nothing reminds me how much I despise American politics as the presidential debates. Due to the context surrounding them—that is, the election—the candidates have an enormous incentive to focus on tactics directed at lowering the public’s regard of an opponent while improving one’s own standing, often through the use of misleading statistics and avoiding candid answers to questions. And as a result, rather than helping me understand the issues, the bickering between the two candidates usually results in an incoherence that leaves me utterly confused about the issues and saddened about our politicians’ ability to arrive at any kind of consensus.
Watching these debates does have its uses, but ultimately I think that there are much better ways to spend one’s election time. One of them is The Economist’s guide to the American Election, which cogently and concisely analyzes the stances of the Democratic and Republican candidates on a bevy of issues: the economy, regulation and trade, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan, health care, immigration, energy and the environment, education, crime, and cultural values. As I’ve explained before, I particularly like The Economist because of its ability to coherently explain issues from a thought-provoking perspective, and in this regard their guide is a breath of fresh air.