Thursday, September 30, 2004
Do not think that your civic responsibilities end tonight at 10:30 pm EDT. That is only when the debate ends. Your work can begin then.
Your job is to analyze what you hear and see. Think about the messages and how they are communicated. Pay attention especially to the rhetoric, arguments, and language of the positions. Take notes. Imagine that the 32 pages of rules included expectations about logic, enthymemes, manipulation, transparency. What are the candidates' assumptions? What assumptions are hidden? What don't they want you to know?
After you consider your analysis, here are some things you can do (I am adapting these suggestions from the Democratic National Committee, but you should use them to express whatever your views: the important thing is for thoughtful people's voices to be heard.):
National and local news organizations will be conducting online polls during and after the debate asking for readers' opinions. Look for online polls at these national news websites, and make sure to vote in every one of them:
ABC News: http://www.abcnews.com/
CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/
Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/
And be sure to check the websites of your local newspapers and TV stations for online polls. It is crucial that you do this in the minutes immediately following the debate.
Immediately after the debate, go online and write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Say where you thought candidates dodged questions, gave real answers, used double speak, clouded the truth, etc. Be specific. Avoid sites that encourage you to send form letters; editorial editors ignore them.
Consider double posting your letter to your blog. That way even if it is not published, your analysis will be out there. Besides, many newspapers have word limits. You can post your longer version--with more examples and analysis--in your blog.
Furthermore, you are people who read and write and think critically. This is a time when that matters. Not everyone who watches tonight has that critical edge, so it is your job to use yours--and pass your findings on to others.
Don't skip the letter to the editor step. Remember how many people there are in your local committee who don't read blogs.
Do you listen to national or local call-in shows on the radio? How about on TV? Call them and let them know what you thought and why. Again, be specific.
Here are some national shows to get you started. (All times are Eastern.)
Air America (all day): 646-274-2346
Alan Colmes (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.): 212-301-5900
Ed Shultz (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.): 701-232-1525
Bev Smith (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.): 412-325-4197
Doug Stephen (5 a.m. 10 a.m.): 1-800-510-8255
Come on, people
This is a big chance to let your voices be heard. A lot has been said recently about the power of the blogosphere to shape opinion and cover elections.
Do your part.