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Spring 1992

Winter 1992

Call to Council
President's Message (Evelyn Bender)
Vote Count Volunteers Saluted
Board Highlights
League and Debates: Who Cares? (Catherine Tignac)
Hawaii Firearms Control
Leasehold Committee Reports
Home Rule Study
Neighbor Island News
Invitation to Join
Debate Guidelines Carried
Education Video Available
Education Committee News (Libby Oshiyama & Marion Saunders)
League on the "Light Side"
Focusing on LWVUS
World Population News
Recycling Catches On

The League and Debates: Who Cares?

Former state president, Jerry Hess, wrote an article in the Winter Leo Hana reviewing League's experiences with debates ; she wondered whether debates made a difference. Several comments have been received by readers and we welcome more reflections. Below are those of Catherine Tignac:

Jerry Hess has raised a pertinent matter. Leaving the presidential debates to LWVUS, we need to decide whether to sponsor debates in the upcoming local election. Although it is discouraging to learn that the Advertiser-KHON debate drew only a 21 % audience in 1990, members can consider the debates in terms of their purpose and weigh the effort.

Jerry is not alone. William F Buckley, Jr. devoted his February 23rd Firing Line to the subject with Newton Minow as his guest. As to his credentials, Minow of the Annenberg Washington Program was hired by LWVUS as consultant in producing the 1980 presidential debate. Minow stated that there are those who express dissatisfaction with debates because journalists get between the candidates and what the public wants to know, leading to less enthusiasm for the candidates to debate not only on their part but on that of the public as well.

In his opinion a debate should have a moderator who conducts it allowing "the candidates to get up and get after each other." That format can allow immediate responses to statements.

Minow also believes that one debate is insufficient. Candidates limit the issues they will talk about and appeal to special interests not to the whole electorate.

He suggests having a series of at least three with one in the last week preceding the election. Having a series gives the candidate with lesser forensic skills an opportunity over time to show qualities desirable for the office sought - something 30 second bites cannot do.

It is conventional wisdom that voters do watch TV to get a "look" at the candidates. It is essential to the League's purpose that issues be presented and candidates be provided with this means of getting their messages across. Minow's format is provocative and challenging. Can we bring it about? Do we want to?

Catherine Tignac

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