Romney, Obama Can Help Democracy in Presidential Debates

Article excerpt

If the White House is the bully pulpit, the presidential debates are the rally pulpit.

These pivotal performances are the one big chance for candidates to not only win over those inclined to vote but also reach the more than a third of Americans who generally dont cast ballots in national elections.

Each major-party candidate knows he must use these televised debates to reach into the homes of todays nonvoters who may be apathetic, angry, or disaffected and rouse them to get to the polls.

Why should the candidates care about nonvoters who sit on their hands?

If past elections are any guide, neither President Obama or Mitt Romney will win the largest percentage of eligible voters the nonvoters. In other words, the electoral mandate of the next president will be weak if the number of people who dont vote is greater than those who vote for him.

The disputes during the debates over policy, character, or record should be secondary to each candidates task of encouraging every American not just those in their parties to vote.

And on one point Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney can agree: The decision not to vote sends a subtle message that an individual cant make a difference.

Democracy is based on the very idea that sovereignty lies with the individual not the state, corporation, union, or any group. To essentially deny that point by not voting is to give a heave-ho to an idea that took centuries and many lives to bring to about half of humanity today.

Compared with the last three presidential elections, voter engagement in 2012 is down, according to a recent Gallup poll. Experts point to any number of reasons for this lack of enthusiasm, such as Democrats disappointment with Obamas record or Republicans feeling disconnected from Romney. …

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