I'm a masochist. I watched the foreign policy debate. I'm curious and always a little hopeful that some issue I care about might be addressed. But, of course, no. Nothing on global warming, or global overpopulation, or peak oil, or global resource depletion generally, or nuclear arms control generally (the specific case of Iran got a lot of attention but not in principled terms, and Mr. Romney mentioned Russia's intent to allow Nunn-Lugar to expire but didn't explain, even in one sentence, why that might matter), or "free trade" and America's current account deficit, or the €, or even, for heaven's sake, the Peace Corps. It's entirely right and proper to blame the candidates but, if you think about it, in almost all the post-debate media coverage those issues didn't make any appearance either. The system set the lowest bar possible, the candidates casually stepped over it. End of story. What a complete waste of time!
I most dislike being treated like an eighth grader. Do I care about Mr. Obama's 'zinger' involving horses and bayonets? (Is this, btw, Freudian imagery deliberately designed to appeal to working women?) Do I care whether Mr. Romney thinks Syria is Iran's outlet to the sea? Am I both horrified and fascinated that Mr. Romney can radically change policy positions from day to day and still perhaps be elected? Well, yes to the last one. But that takes us back to why the debates have become a lobotomized art form. The answer, in large part — almost entirely — is the electoral college. The system, the candidates, indeed all of us, are sitting around waiting for people in Toledo Ohio to make up their minds. It's worse than absurd. It's tragic.
My guess is that if the election were decided instead by the national popular vote a very different set of swing groups would emerge. Some of them might even require intelligent questions and answers.