How did we go from the Kennedy-Nixon debates to this?
Here is a little project. Go to the internet and watch the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960. You may be shocked to discover how seriously we used to treat our politics, especially the journalists.
The first Kennedy-Nixon debate took place on September 26, 1960. We learned later that radio listeners thought that Nixon had won but TV viewers gave Kennedy the edge. The election was settled by 114,000 votes out of 76 million, so I'm not sure how much of an impact the debates actually had.
Watching the video of these debates today did have an impact on me. It took me to a time when our politicians – and journalists – had a greater level of civility and seriousness than they do today.
For example, the media did not ask these questions:
Senator Kennedy, VP Nixon said this about you. Can you respond, please?
VP Nixon, Senator Kennedy said this in a speech in 1955. What do you think of something he said 5 years ago?
On the contrary, the questions were very serious and showed tremendous respect for the millions tuning in. Everyone on the stage, and in subsequent debates, made us proud of American democracy.
Our debates today are too much entertainment and not enough substance. Frankly, that's how I felt about the CNN debate that just happened.
Check out the 1960 debate. You will have the same reaction that I did. How did such a serious nation get so unserious?