October 19, 2012 by Op-Ed
Roughly 67.2 million people viewed the first 2012 presidential debate Oct. 3, undoubtedly seeking to receive clarified answers to their numerous questions in order to decide which candidate they will vote for on Election Day.
With 67 percent in his favor, Mitt Romney was the clear victor of the first presidential debate, according to a poll conducted by CNN/ORC International survey. His success in the first presidential debate is reflected in polls conducted by Gallup, Rasmussen and Reuters/Ipsos, with Romney triumphantly taking an average gain of 3.7 points. It is evident that Romney’s success in the first debate directly correlates to his significant gains in the polls.
The most concerning issue about the first debate is not Barack Obama’s docility, nor is it the failure to address the critical issue of higher education in depth. The most concerning issue is that people seem to vote based on performance rather than policies.
Romney, who was previously viewed unfavorably by a multitude of voters, primarily due to his notorious comment regarding the “47 percent,” uncannily managed to elude blame. How? Voters, who previously lambasted Romney for his elitism, now praise him for letting his “energy pour out.” Were people really so enamored with Romney’s assertive and confident aura that their ears malfunctioned and therefore failed to process his inconsistencies? During the first debate, Romney said he would “provide tax relief to people in the middle class.” He also attested that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit,” despite proof that his $5 trillion tax cut plan exists. However, in order to compensate for the lost revenue, the deficit will have to be raised and the middle class will have to be taxed at higher rates. It seems that the majority of people have failed to analyze his words and therefore failed to realize his discrepancies. They were more drawn to his confident poise, according to Janine Driver, a communications expert. Romney’s head, according to Driver, was positioned straight and projected confidence, as opposed to Obama’s tilted head, indicating uncertainty. Janine affirmed, “If you were from another country and you watched this based on body language, people would think that Mitt Romney was already the president.”
Emphasis on appearance is not only a problem of the 21st century. In 1960, John F. Kennedy debated Richard Nixon in the nation’s first televised presidential debate. Nixon, who was hospitalized prior to the debate, had the appearance of a sickly ghoul, severely underweight and sweating profusely. Nixon also imprudently denied wearing makeup for the debate, a grave mistake he would lament in the near future. Kennedy, on the other hand, was poised, tanned and projected an image of optimal health. Were people really paying meticulous attention to the words Kennedy was spewing out of his mouth? It is likely they were not. They were probably too smitten with his appearance to do so. Kennedy emerged from the debate triumphant, completely eviscerating his opponent with his charm and confident mannerisms.
In consensus, appearance and presence have a greater impact than substance, at least in the United States. In a society infatuated with the irksome frivolities of inane reality TV shows such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Jersey Shore,” it is only natural that substance is overlooked and takes a backseat to superficialities. However, it is crucial that appearance be separated from policies. There is a clear distinction between what is said and how it is said. Does a charismatic presentation equate to effective policies? It certainly does not. Likewise, does a weak performance necessarily mean bad policies? No, it does not. That said, voters should resist being subjugated and subordinated to the rhetoric of political campaigns and, instead, carefully analyze and evaluate the candidates based on facts.
Olivia Deng is a freshman political science major at Drexel University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org