Political Debates: What the Unforgettable Moments Reveal
Tell-all moments in political debates are embedded in political folklore, from knockout one-liners to astonishing gaffes. High-stakes debates put candidates in the hot seat. But are they helpful to voters?
The first presidential debate in 1960 was a creation of the television age, and it quickly entered its founding lore. We’re told those who saw the debate on TV favored the handsome, well made-up Kennedy. Radio listeners, on the other hand, thought Nixon had won. Evidence supporting this story is shoddy — a mix of anecdote, assumptions and a debunked survey – but the story continues to shape how we understand debates today.
Many historians say there is a misplaced focus on the ability of make-up – or other non-substantive aspects of performance – to deliver political victory, when debates have become one of our most important civic rituals, allowing glimpses into candidate’s character that comes from them defending their ideas in an unscripted, high-stakes environment. But what impact has the changing media landscape had on debates? And what does that mean for this election?
More Like This
Gerrymandering Tilts Political Power. Here’s How Redistricting Affects Democracy.
Both parties play the redistricting game, redrawing electoral boundaries to lock down power. Are you a teacher? Check out our teaching resources for this video and upcoming webinar.
How the Military Response to 9/11 Led to Two Decades of War in Afghanistan
Officials who drove the decades-long war in Afghanistan look back on the strategic mistakes and misjudgments that led to a 20-year quagmire. For teachers: This video is part of a collection of resources including four short films, each accompanied by a lesson plan and student activity.
Why the Cold War Race for Nuclear Weapons Is Still a Threat
The Cold War may be over, but an arms race continues, even as safeguards once in place have fallen away.
The Cold War on TV: Joseph McCarthy vs. Edward R. Murrow
In the heat of the Cold War, Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade became a media sensation.