Richmond can still host a 2008 Presidential Debate

For more of my commentary on life in Richmond, Indiana check out RichmondMatters.com.

The news came yesterday that Richmond was not selected as one of the sites for a Presidential / Vice Presidential Debate in Fall 2008. It's certainly too bad given the potential it had for bringing attention to Richmond, but as EDC President Jim Dinkle has been saying, just the unity and positive image we presented in bidding for the debate was itself a great achievement, and one we can build on in the future.

Of course, we still CAN have a Presidential / Vice Presidential Debate here in the Fall of 2008, and one that gets national media attention. The Commission on Presidential Debates that turned us down is a private corporation that represents the Democratic and Republican parties, and that works to explicitly exclude other political parties from the debate process. While the practice of third-party exclusion is largely accepted in mainstream politics, it is certainly counter to the very notion of a true democratic process, as I discussed in an RNR podcast episode about Richmond's bid.

So, now that we've shown we have the resources and interest in hosting a presidential debate, we can make an additional contribution to the political process by joining the Open Debates movement and petitioning the Citizen's Debate Commission to host a debate in Richmond. Not only will we get national media attention and Presidential Candidates taking the stage at Civic Hall, we'll also be helping to work for an important change in the election process - a debate that actually serves the interests of the American people first.

(Full disclosure: I participated in the Debate Bid Steering Committee as an adviser on matters related to telecommunications infrastructure and marketing.)

5 thoughts on “Richmond can still host a 2008 Presidential Debate

  1. Chris, I appreciate your civic enthusiasm shown by participation in the steering committee. Having written that, I have to challenge the notion that bringing a spotlight to the city of Richmond will, apparently of and by itself, be of any lasting, meaningful benefit to most of the area's residents.

    Danville, Kentucky's experience has proven to be, at best, a short-lived shot in the arm for it's local college's self-esteem. Economically, besides a fleeting moment of service industry boom, almost entirely in Lexington where most visitors stayed, ate and shopped, no one has been able to make the connection that the debate ever became high on the list of business owner's criteria for establishing a facility.

    As for Centre College's desire for external approval via media attention, I suspect that they've learned what many young, insecure college students have felt the morning after sleeping around in hopes of better acceptance. This is a lesson, I would suggest, for Richmond to keep in mind.

    In addition to not having spent the $2,000,000 of locally generated funds needed BEFORE the debate even came to Richmond, we should all breathe a sigh of relief that we were not chosen. It is unlikely that the recent, and well-deserved, labeling of our local high school as a "dropout factory" will have produced much change. Our workforce will be no more literate, our Whitewater River no less polluted. The bullet we just dodged was exposing Richmond to the world as a snapshot by which we'd not like to be remembered.

  2. Mark: thanks for your thoughts! I agree with you that bringing a debate to Richmond can not and should not be our only approach to invigorating Richmond's economy or self-esteem. Lasting and meaningful benefit to our citizens will not come from one-time events that descend on our city one day and are gone the next (be it a debate, a visit from an expert consultant, or some other buzz-generating happening); we have to transform the buzz into something meaningful ourselves.

    While Richmond needs a coordinated but widely diverse series of efforts, within that diversity I think there is room for pursuing this kind of opportunity. I'm not saying that it should or shouldn't be taxpayer funded, or that it will or won't bring the economic benefits projected, or that it is or isn't a good use of any one organization's (or person's) time and energy. The point for me is that it was an idea that brought a part of our community together around a vision that is positive and forward-looking, and that seems worth holding on to in some form. We have to build on what works.

    I hear your concerns about drawing attention to our shortcomings, educational or otherwise. I don't know the best way to reconcile all of that, but I do know that if we wait until Richmond is what we WANT it to be before we take action to get us there, we will be waiting a long time. If we work with what we have and keep our vision focused on the future, I don't at all mind that it might mean confronting our weaknesses, even in a public spotlight.

  3. Hi Chris,

    I'm with you on the idea of actually confronting our problems. I'm afraid that some efforts, and perhaps that of securing a debate, may use up the finite resources available to do so.

    Sad to say, but in Wayne County's history, it has usually been the case that people from outside the area moved in, and with a fresh perspective, assumed the roles of young Turks. Unfortunately, with the economic and demographic downturns of the past couple of decades, I don’t see those types coming in to form a critical mass. Of course, this leaves only one option that being changes from within.

    Alternative media will certainly be important if any change is to occur, so keep up the good work with your site!

  4. if there's room for another debate i feel that we the american voters are being seriously short-changed for the simple reason that one vice presedential debate is seriously not enough and as crucial as this election is whether you're republican,democrat or independent it would be outrageous and totally unfair/undemocratic if this were to remain as scheduled and no consideration was given to the above mention.

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