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Editorial: Voters must look beyond debate rhetoric


Each time President Obama said "millionaires" during any of the three presidential debates, we drank. Each time Mitt Romney said "jobs," we drank. By the time any of the debates reached its conclusion, many of us were sick from too much popcorn, too many drinks or both. After all, Brown students are, for the most part, highly informed and opinionated individuals who have long since made up their minds on their presidential preference. This leads us to ask: How much do and should these debates matter on our views on who will take the White House? 

We already know what Obama and Romney are promising. But these promises are not always laden with actions or even truths. Where are the 5 million "green jobs" or the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, both of which Obama has promised? Also, what is Romney talking about when he said Obama "doubled" the deficit? And would eliminating "Obamacare" actually reduce the deficit, like Romney says it would? The promises we heard from both candidates during these debates seem more concurrent with propaganda and appeals rather than substantive, fact-backed policy declarations. Romney's recent shift toward moderation during the debates attests to his eagerness to pander. 

But that's okay with us, right? Do we not see past each candidate's facade and trust that voters will discern legitimacy and real progress amid the fog of  accusations we've seen recently on television?

As entertaining and hollow as these debates might seem to many Brown students, they do matter for many voters. For these voters, what Obama and Romney say and don't say in the debates could be persuasive. It matters how presidential they appear and if one seemingly beat the other in presenting really nothing more than over-polished, vague rhetoric. We can also distinguish between two main types of undecided voters: those whose values and convictions find them split among Obama and Romney's platforms, and those who just don't know enough and use the debates as a final measure of a candidate's worth. Though it is understandable that these voters are undecided due to their lack of knowledge about each candidate's platforms, it is troubling that undecided voters would choose a candidate largely based on his debate performance or even his advertisements. 

Just like we value the water more than the jug that contains it, a vote for a presidential candidate should be determined by that person's positions on economic, political and social issues and not seriously based on who spoke better. While these debates can reaffirm our own convictions about a candidate, it would be misleading to base our decision on the outcome of the presidential debates. It's important to know not only whom we are voting for but also what we are voting for. It is vital that all voters, including Brown students, are able to make a judgment based mainly on concrete facts rather than on intangibles. 

This is not to say that debates should not exist or that undecided voters are inferior to those who have already made up their minds. Debates are currently the best option available to directly compare and contrast candidates. Undecided voters are incredibly important to the democratic process - they are primarily the reason why such debates exist. In addition, those who are undecided may equip a more detached and objective view than those who align themselves one way or the other based entirely on a few self-denoted salient issues. 

At the same time, we believe that all voters, undecided or not, should maintain a meticulously thought-out and reasoned approach when deciding whom to put in office. Don't become enamored of the person but rather with his or her ideas and visions. 


Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to


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