Saturday Night Live” ran a hilarious spoof this past weekend on undecided voters. The parody portrayed Americans who haven’t made up their minds yet on a presidential candidate as clueless dimwits who want answers to irrelevant questions before they commit.
The comedy piece was terrific political satire on uninformed, uneducated voters. But becoming informed on the relevant issues of any race isn’t always easy — even when the candidates are speaking directly on the issues.
We learned that firsthand Friday in Columbia at two political debates sponsored by the Missouri Press Association. The candidates in the Missouri governor’s race and the U.S. Senate race who took part in the debate spent a fair amount of time ducking and dodging the moderator and reporters’ questions.
In many instances, the candidates responded to questions with sound bites rather than sound, precise answers. Sometimes, the candidates would begin to address a question and then slip into a well-rehearsed monologue on their accomplishments or a critique on their opponent.
There was plenty of spin but not a lot of substance in many of the answers offered by the candidates. One reporter aptly described the debates as a festival of nonresponsive answers.
There were, as expected, plenty of attacks by candidates on their opponents mixed in with the aforementioned obfuscation. There were some sharp exchanges and some good jabs thrown, like when Libertarian Senate candidate Jonathon Dine said if elected he would keep Republicans out of your bedroom and Democrats out of your wallet.
It was a great line that got plenty of laughs — the kind of quip that got Jesse Ventura elected governor in Minnesota a few years back — but it wasn’t very specific or instructive as to any particular issue.
Of course politicians not giving straight answers to tough questions is nothing new. But it is getting harder to cut through the smoke and haze of sound bites and rehearsed spin of modern campaigns to pin candidates down on the “nitty gritty” of important issues.
It takes courage for a politician to tell it like it is and risk alienating voters in an election. But we would like to see more of it and less spin.
Not all of the undecided voters are as dimwitted as those portrayed in the “Saturday Night Live” parody.