Monday, 28 September 2020
Written by D.G. Martin
What is more interesting than the debates between candidates for major political offices?
Of course, it is the debate about the debates.
Some friends, well-informed and experienced in political activities, say the importance of such debates is vastly overrated. For instance, one said the recent first debate between North Carolina U.S. Senate candidates Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham was meaningless because nobody was watching.
They reminded me about the 1992 U.S. Senate televised debate between Terry Sanford and Lauch Faircloth. Most viewers agreed that Sanford won the debate with sharp authoritative responses to questions while Faircloth fumbled. But Faircloth came out on top when it counted.
Republican campaign consultant Carter Wrenn strongly disagrees. He thinks debates are critically important. Undecided voters are the key to winning elections.
To win their votes, they have to see a difference between the candidates on an issue that is important to them or on a difference in the way they handle themselves under pressure.
Wrenn is a legendary expert on developing hard-hitting campaign materials such as the ones Jesse Helms used to defeat Jim Hunt in the 1984 U.S. Senate race.
In a recent radio interview with Wrenn, I agreed with him about the importance of televised debates. Citing the 1960 presidential debates between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, I argued that demeanor of the candidates is a key factor.
Kennedy looked calm, cool, and collected, while Nixon was nervous, sweating, and fidgety.
A candidate who appears authoritative, courteous and nice has the edge, I said.
But Wrenn does not go along with my reasoning.
He says a debate is the place to take advantage of your opponent, to show the differences on matters important to potential supporters, to set traps and jump on the opponent who falls into one.
It is a battle, not a beauty contest, he said.
In their first debate, Tillis turned the tables on Cunningham and tried to trap him for saying that he would be hesitant taking a coronavirus vaccine if one were available by the end of the year.
Tillis called that irresponsible.
“We just heard a candidate for the U.S. Senate look into the camera and tell 10 million North Carolinians he would be hesitant to take a vaccine. I think that that’s irresponsible.”
In the next two debates Cunningham will have the opportunity to push back on the issue of irresponsibility of the Republican president’s campaign organizing coronavirus-spreading rallies in North Carolina.
These Cunningham-Tillis events are a warm-up for the presidential debates, beginning Tuesday, Sep. 29.
Wrenn took me back to his work in the Hunt-Helms race in which Helms overcame a 25% early lead by the popular Hunt. Wrenn remembers discovering inconsistencies in Hunt’s views on controversial issues. Then the campaign developed ads and debate themes in which Helms set out his positions on the then-current issues such as the Martin Luther King holiday, busing, school prayer and the Panama Canal "give away." Then Helms would ask, “Where do you stand, Jim?”
Wrenn said again that debates give candidates the opportunity to tell voters where they differ from their opponents.
Carter Wrenn and I do not agree on lots of things, but I think he wins the debate with my friends who say candidate debates do not matter.
Debates are gold mines and minefields for candidates and important for voters searching for candidates whose views and character are worthy of their support.
Monday, 28 September 2020
Written by Margaret Dickson
In the days following her death, we have all been reminded of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legal legacy — championing of women’s rights in all areas of American life. By the time she arrived on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, she had already wiped more than 200 discriminatory laws — many gender-based — off the books, and she authored some of the most powerful dissenting opinions in American judicial history. She even wore a special collar on her robe when one of those dissents was coming.
Very personally for millions of American women, we now hold credit cards in our own names only because Ginsburg sued to remove formerly mandatory names of husbands and fathers. Born during the Great Depression and living well into the 21st century, it is more than fair to say Ginsburg’s steadfast and brilliant legal work changed the lives of women and families across our nation. She was an intellectual prize fighter disguised in the body of a tiny woman.
Historians will debate her legal legacy for generations, but it is important to understand that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a working wife and mother, and later grandmother, facing and knocking down the same challenges as other women of her generation. Even as a graduate of an Ivy League law school, she could not find work as an attorney because she had a young child. She was helped more than many of her contemporaries by a strong and supportive husband and enjoyed and happy 56-year marriage and remained close to her children and grandchildren until her death. In her later years, she unexpectedly became a pop icon, the notorious RBG, nicknamed after a rap singer, and she used her status to speak to generations of younger Americans.
Pundits are writing about RBG nonstop in the days since her death, but the Justice herself spoke about her life and career. It cannot be said that she did not understand exactly what she was doing and why.
On her career, Ginsburg made these observations.
“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
“Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. They just zap energy and waste time.”
“I don’t say women’s rights — I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”
“I am sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough (women on the Supreme Court)? and my answer is ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there have been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”
“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she has to do her work to the very best of her ability.”
On life in general and her life in particular, Ginsburg commented. “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”
“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”
“I remember envying the boys long before I even knew the word feminism, because I liked shop better than cooking or sewing.”
“Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf. … That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues.”
“If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it. I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her life, both public and private, making sure that “we, the people” includes all of us, men and women of all colors, backgrounds, and experiences.
Hers was a life very well lived.