Is it democratic heresy to wonder aloud if televised debates in our country’s Presidential race really matter? 

Last night’s Obama/McCain debate was a major political and historic event.  So, of course, these things matter.  Ever since the “five-o’clock shadow” Nixon v. the “fresh as a rose” Kennedy debate more than 35 years ago, conventional thinking is that these televised events actually help American’s choose who they want as their next President.  Recently, I wonder.

Is it the debate itself that infleunces the ultimate “purchase decision” in politics – the vote?  Or, is it the post-debate, pervasive-to-the-point-of-invasive, 24/7, multi-channel, analysis and dissection that really matters?  Which has greater influence on the most potential voters – the debate itself between political party nominated candidates, or the after-debate “debate” among anchors, commentators, analysts, experts, specialists, bloggers, and more?

My thought:  Of course these debates still matter!  They matter so much precisely because of the post-debate, pervasive-to-the-point-of-invasive, 24/7, multi-channel, analysis and dissection.  It’s now part of the game. 

We may lament the fact that our Presidential contests since the 60s increasingly place form over substance and that emerging technologies are the reason why.  But, we also know that data-sharing and impression-making happens nearly instantaneously these days and is no longer filtered through traditional media.

Form over substance is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as substance is still there.  Nearly every past President remarks at how shallow and substance-lacking Presidential contests have become.  Without question, though, this year’s candidates and earlier Presidents have all, in their own ways, been experienced, serious and substantive leaders.

So, I think these televised debates do still matter so long as the candidates understand how to take advantage during the show of the after-show that may matter even more.

At Vehr Communications, and through our blog Vr3, we think about these things and hope you do as well.