The problem with presidential and industry debates is that typically we don’t learn a whole lot about the issues. Debates today aren’t structured like the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates where two individuals debated and discussed policy in significant detail. We live in an era of 60-second sound bites, where style is often rewarded over substance.
Thus, the nuances of policy and the law of unintended consequences rarely get discussed despite their ultimate importance to the outcome. With most answers carefully planned and audience-tested to achieve results, debates largely become a way to demonstrate charisma and political savvy. Not that those traits are unimportant, but the process becomes less a matter of finding the best answer and the best person for the job, in favor of identifying the individual most likely to win.
We’ve done the same in the U.S. beef industry, especially as it relates to marketing issues. Facts have been replaced with rhetoric designed to stir the emotions rather than honestly address the issues from an intellectual standpoint. The outcome is simply a downgrading of the tone of conversation and debate.