(The Root) — My obsessive monitoring of social media shows that the third and final 2012 presidential debate was what you made of it, based on your pre-existing beliefs. By and large, Democrats and progressives thought President Obama nailed the topic of foreign policy, and Republicans and conservatives thought Mitt Romney nailed it. Here are some widely divergent comments following the debate:
— MIP on SiriusXM 127 (@MakeItPlain) October 23, 2012
Romney multiple times:”I love teachers” Schieffer: “I think we all love teachers.” #debates
— POLITICO (@politico) October 23, 2012
Best joke of the night: “Over the last four years we have made real progress.” -Barack Obama #debates
— #RepublicanGirlProbs (@RepubGrlProbs) October 23, 2012
— Mia Love (@MiaBLove) October 23, 2012
Mia Love, by the way, is an African-American Republican politician of Haitian descent (as well as a 2012 honoree on The Root 100 list). She’s currently mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and running for a U.S. congressional seat in that state.
But let’s just reset the table and go back to the big picture of what debates mean in our political system. I monitor social media feeds, particularly the divergences and interactions between progressives and conservatives. But I’m particularly interested in the way we frame politics. In our two-party system, the Electoral College effectively renders 30-plus of our U.S. states as “safe states” that will go either Democratic or Republican. They get much less attention from presidential campaigns and the media than the swing states, which generally number around a dozen.
So what does it mean that we have these debates, but only the swing voters in a dozen states are courted heavily for their votes? For example, I spoke at an ethics conference at the University of Central Oklahoma last week. Oklahoma is a solid “red state” in the presidential election. I live in New York, a solid “blue state.” One panelist at the conference lives in Florida, a swing state, and said she gets up to 20 election flyers a day in her mailbox. I’ve gotten maybe one a week.
It’s not that I want more political mail. But I am being put on notice that my vote is not really that important in the Electoral College calculations, as opposed to the ballot of someone from Florida or Ohio.