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The Most Important Presidential Debates in American History, According to Historians

Carter vs. Ford

The most important lesson that one can learn from this debate refers to the fact that you should pay extra attention when making statements during a public debate. The consequences can be quite disturbing, even after some good years.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

The Most Important Presidential Debates in American History, According to Historians

The Most Important Presidential Debates in American History, According to Historians

https://time.com/5607429/most-important-debates/

time.com

6

Key Ideas

The presidential debates

Presidential debates in USA, and not only, are a really big deal. During these, candidates have not only the possibility to show to the entire country what they are capable of, but this is also their chance to win over the adversary. However, when not used properly, debates can also turn into candidates' biggest nightmare, as they can be used as later evidence for what was inappropriately said.

Kennedy vs. Nixon

Having been the first nationally televised presidential debate in history, this event is still seen as a memory worth remembering. Furthermore, what made it even more extraordinary was the fact that both political figures who participated in the debate would later become Presidents. An important take-away refers to the fact that, especially during a public event, one should take care of how she or he looks like.

Carter vs. Ford

The most important lesson that one can learn from this debate refers to the fact that you should pay extra attention when making statements during a public debate. The consequences can be quite disturbing, even after some good years.

Carter vs. Reagen

If during the debate with Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter proved to be more well-informed, the things did not go so well for him during the debate with Ronald Reagan. Reagan taught everybody a great lesson by means of how he talked and behaved throughout the debate: in order to win the elections, you should first make sure to win the public over. And using your charm will surely do the job.

Bush vs. Clinton vs. Perot

Throughout a political debate, it is equally important to use your charm as it is to present trustworthy information, in order to win the public over. Moreover, if there are three candidates instead of two, this will most probably lead to a more challenging discussion and, therefore, more interesting results.

Bush vs. Al Gore

Debates are sometimes won over by those who know how to get close to the public, rather than those who know everything. Therefore, even if Al Gore was a highly intellectual, he did lose the elections, as people had grown tired of his lecturers.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Debates have a major impact
Debates have a major impact

There’s a reason why we place such importance on debates: They show us things about candidates that other venues do not, but they may also overwhelm everything else we know about the candidate.

1960 — Kennedy v. Nixon

The first televised presidential debate in U.S. history may be the most consequential.

Political mythology holds that Americans who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon was better, while those who watched it on television thought Kennedy was better.

1976 — Carter v. Ford

A moment that may have impacted the final result was when Ford stumbled over a question during their second debate regarding Poland, which he insisted was not under "Soviet domination." It was, and Ford had to retract his statement, contributing to the view that he was in over his head.

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1800: Jefferson and Adams
1800: Jefferson and Adams

The outcome was so bizarre, the United States had to amend the Constitution.

  • The election of 1800 saw Thomas Jefferson tie with his Democratic-Republican "running mate" Aaron Burr. Both...
1824: 'Corrupt bargain'
  • Andrew Jackson won the popular vote by less than 39,000 ballots and took 99 Electoral College votes. John Quincy Adams secured 84, William Crawford won 41, and Henry Clay had 37.
  • Clay, with the least votes, got the boot, and his supporters shifted their support to Adams, who would go on to win the majority of the House vote.

After his inauguration, Adams selected Clay as his secretary of state. Jackson accused Adams and Clay of a "corrupt bargain."

1860: Nation divided

The 1860 election was notable because it ripped the long-dominant Party (and nation) in half.

  • The Democrats were unable at their 1860 convention to establish an official party line on slavery.
  • At a second convention that year, the Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas, but many Southerners in the party selected Breckinridge as their man. Both would claim to be the official Democratic candidate.
  • Lincoln snared 40% of the popular vote but took most of the North in the Electoral College.
  • Douglas was second in the popular vote but took only Missouri.
  • Breckenridge took most of the South.
  • Bell's middle of the road policies earned him the middle of the road.

In 1861, delegates from South Carolina, and six of the Southern states formed the Confederate States of America and selected Jefferson Davis as their president.

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The first televised debate
The first televised debate

The first televised debate from 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon helped Kennedy become more popular, only because of his good looks, while Nixon, just recovered from a recent hospital...

The influence of TV on politics

Ever since the first televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon, back in 1960, television has been playing an essential role in influencing people's political choices. After sixteen years of break, starting with 1976, televised debates have become standard practice in politics. 

What is maybe the most interesting about how television influenced politics is the fact that individuals, as well as parties, are now taking into account additional factors when judging the candidates, such as looks and the ability to debate.

The main parties

In the US, there are only two parties considered by most voters - the Democrats (the liberal party) and the Republicans (the conservative party).

Others, like the Libertarian, Green ...

The present

At present, presidential hopefuls are battling for their party's nomination in caucuses and primary elections across the country.

State governments run primary elections the same way as a general election.

If a candidate wins a primary election, they win either all or a proportion of the state's delegates. These delegates will then vote for them at the party convention, where the presidential nominee is named.

Caucuses

A handful of states have caucuses instead of primaries. The parties run caucuses in precincts across the state.

Caucuses give parties more flexibility in determining the rules. In Democratic caucuses, votes are determined by standing in groups around a room.

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Humor at work
Humor at work

Being funny can have both positive and negative consequences, in your personal as well as your professional life. And context is always important: when making a joke, for instance, you should defin...

Humor and its effects on the status

Humor and status have always been tightly linked: good leaders seem to often use humor in order to motivate their team members' actions. As individuals, we tend to prefer, researchers claim, jokes that make us laugh while feeling slightly uncomfortable.

Furthermore, we perceive the joke teller as a self-confident person, who could easily become a leader due to his or her courage to make such a joke. The key point here is that the joke should be appropriate and match the context.

Inside jokes

Making inside jokes usually shows how bounded a team or a group is: their jokes can understood the best by themselves.

However, the moment an outsider integrates the group, it is better to avoid the inside jokes, as this will most probably make him or her feel out of place.

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Philosophy and truth

We think philosophy has a role to play in identifying and correcting the disconnect between perception and reality with regard to politicians’ trustworthiness. By providing a theory of lying and tr...

Augustine on lying

Augustine (354-430) was one of the first to define a lie explicitly as the intent to deceive.

Augustine argues that lying is not permissible regardless of the circumstances that provoked the lie.

Kant on lying

Kant defines a lie as an “intentionally untruthful declaration”.

Kant identifies truthfulness as an utterance that accurately represents one’s thoughts (including one’s beliefs), regardless of whether those thoughts are themselves accurate.
Kant argues that lying is not permissible, but he allows for engaging in deception through careful word choice or evasion.

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Voting in the 1700s

For decades, only white property holders would have the right to vote in the United States. Moreover, some states even made sure that only Christian men had this vote.

Voting in the 1800s

Even though during the Reconstruction period, after the Civil War, individuals were supposed to be allowed to vote no matter their race, in the following decades many Southern states, by means of poll taxes or literacy tests, would still limit the right to vote of the African American men.

1920 and women's voting right

In 1920 women won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the American Constitution.

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Movement during the speech
Movement during the speech
Harnessing energy and erratic movements while talking in front of an audience will give the impression that you are calm and in command.

There's a lot of good research that suggests that...

Preparation before the speech

Find your center, perhaps with a breathing exercise or five minutes of meditation to calm the inner storm, and prepare.

When there's an intense underlying emotion beneath the desire to communicate something, we tend to hyper-express a messy tangle of words that fail to capture what we're really trying to say. 

Being authentic when giving a speech

You don't want to give the impression that you're acting. 

People will figure out when you're trying to be someone that you're not.

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Difficult to convince

It can feel impossible to persuade someone with strong views. This is in part because we look for information to confirm what we already know and avoid or dismiss facts that are opposed to our core...

What resonates with your opponent

We all tend to overrate the power of arguments we find convincing, and wrongly think the other side will be converted. It is pointless to argue a point that your opponents have already dismissed.

The answer is not to simply expose people to another point of view. Find out what resonates with them. Frame your message with buzzwords that reflect their values.

Use moral framing

To try and sway the other side, use their morals against them. People have stable morals that influence their worldview. 

However, reframing in terms of values might not turn your opponent's view, but can soften his stance and get him to listen to counterarguments.

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