Opinion: Presidential Debates Turned Into ‘American Idol’
Columnist Dolores Prida writes about the similarities between presidential debates and singing competition shows in her weekly column in El Diario La Prensa, published Oct. 18. The piece was translated from Spanish.
Only one more debate to go. I let out a sigh of relief not because I don’t like debates or find them boring. On the contrary, I’m quite entertained by them and always find some new detail about the candidates’ personalities or some defect about their positions or how absurd their science fiction promises are.
Now and then they may say something that lifts my spirits.
What I can’t stand is how the media in search of ratings have turned political debates into something akin to the singing competition show, “American Idol,” where the audience picks the winner of every round by voting through their phones. There, the best singer not always wins. Many times people vote for the best-looking or sexiest contestant.
In that vein, we’ve seen how after the first debate in Denver, President Obama, who’s a good singer, with a sharp musical ear and a melodious voice, showed up with his vocal chords all in a tangle, hitting so many sour notes in the space of one hour and a half that sent the Democrats to the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The winner of the night was Mitt Romney, AKA Robotney, who can’t sing at all. Even his followers are appalled every time he launches into some out-of-tune patriotic song at a rally somewhere in the heartland of America.
It’s hard to believe that he closed the gap in various polls after the first debate.
The second round of this American Political Idol show took place on Tuesday and the competition was turned upside down. This time, Obama showed up as Plácido Domingo in Othello, shooting fire through his eyes and making the rafters shake with every aria he belted out. Romney’s performance, in contrast, was reduced to a sort of Julio Iglesias trying a The Phantom of the Opera turn. He shrank and soon disappeared in the fog.
For the third round taking place next Monday, we will tune in to see who will appear on stage. Will it be a match between Ray Charles and Pat Boone? Or Nat King Cole and Donny Osmond? Que sera, sera…
These debates-serenades are mostly geared to the handful of so-called independents and assorted undecided who about 20 days from the election still don’t know who they’re going to vote for. They sit there on the balcony, like some señoritas with high combs and mantillas on their heads, fanning themselves, demurely waiting that one of the two suitors will finally seduce them with a dazzling fandango.
The most irritating of these hesitant creatures are those women who are “still considering” giving their vote to Romney, despite his opposition to equal pay for equal work, his declaration that he would sign a repeal of Roe v. Wade, withdraw funds from Planned Parenthood, and pluck Big Bird, their own children’s favorite character, feather by feather from public television with his bare hands.
The fourth and last round of American Political Idol will be on Election Day, November 6. We hope that in the final competition, style will not overcome substance and television viewers press the right keys on their iPhones and vote for the best crooner — The Singing Nene Bird of Honolulu, Barack Obama.