2020 Democrats Debates Will Disappoint. Here’s Why Podcasts Are So Much Better.

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Welcome to the presidential debate season. This evening, tomorrow, and then over 16 long months, several dozen proposed debates will occupy much of the news media’s fevered attention.

Millions of us will tune in, but we may well be disappointed.

Instead of informed, insightful coverage of complex issues and character of the candidates, the debates will reinforce saturation coverage of contests, celebrities and clashes.

Sparks may fly, but don’t expect true illumination. Reporting and analysis will be limited to what were the most catchiest soundbites, who screwed up, and which of 20 Democratic candidates actually stood out?

“After a couple of hours, viewers and journalists can usually only remember a couple of genuinely interesting, unexpected interactions,” wrote data analyst David Byler in The Washington Post. These moments “often get lost” and “fail to really change public opinion.”

Despite the political theater of the debates, don’t expect them to tell us much about the men and women who want to be President.

Voters deserve better than this.

For deeper insights, podcasts may be a much better way to learn about their proposals, intellectual rigor, and ability to articulate how they would navigate many huge challenges that will be faced in the White House.

Some campaigns get it. According to the political newspaper and website, CQ Roll Call, candidate Pete Buttigieg has already appeared on more that 30 podcasts. Additional appearances are expected.

Politico reports that at least a dozen 2020 contenders have appeared on “Pod Save America”, a popular podcast for Democratic voters and political junkies.

“One thing that’s great about podcasts is that it allows for more in-depth conversation,” says Buttigieg communications advisor Lis Smith. “You feel like you’re friends with these guys, you feel like you know them,” Smith told Roll Call about podcast hosts. “You trust their judgement, you adopt their lingo… I don’t remember feeling that way about a TV host or a radio host.”

Elizabeth Warren was interviewed for more than an hour on “The Axe Files”, the podcast hosted by former Obama senior political advisor, David Axelrod. With podcasts, “I explore people’s stories and try to convey to the listener who it is I’m talking to,” he says.

During the two-hour TV debates the candidates may say a few worthwhile things.

But because so many Presidential hopefuls will be on the stage, they will only get about nine minutes each to speak. And “a certain amount of that is going to involve answering the inane questions that the moderators inevitably pose,” writes columnist Paul Waldman.

By contrast, podcasts allow us to go much deeper, exploring who the candidates really are and what are the principles that they stand for. Despite the risks of flubbing the answer to a surprising or insightful question, serious campaigns should jump at the chance to be taken seriously by podcasters.

Richard Davies is a podcast consultant at daviescontent.com. He co-hosts “How Do We Fix It?”.

Something Liberals and Conservatives Can Agree On: Slow Down Washington’s Revolving Door!

  

I’m writing this on a really hot, clammy day in New York.  So, forgive me if I’m a little bit steamed.

Recently, political journalist Matt Taibbi sounded an alarm that should have sparked a national debate about the conduct of ex-Attorney General Eric Holder.  The story was crowded out by the furore over Donald Trump, and the fuss about the crowded field of Republican Presidential candidates.  Once again, personalities trumped real matters of importance. 

While in office, Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement official for six years, was repeatedly criticized for failing to send a single senior banking boss to jail for playing a role in the mortgage fiasco that led to the 2008 financial crisis. 

Taibbi calls him a Wall Street “double agent” for returning to his lucrative partnership at a powerful law firm, known for defending financial firms.  At the very least, Holder’s actions raise questions about the cozy relationships between top officials and the industries they are supposed to regulate.

His case is far from the only one.  This widespread practice by the Beltway’s power players has a profound impact  on the system of corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and other ways that special interests benefit from their ties to Congress and the Administration. 

“The revolving door phenomenon is particularly acute in the financial services sector,” writes Craig Holman of he liberal group Public Citizen.  “Statistics published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York show a dramatic rise in the movement of financial executives into positions as financial regulators, and regulators into private sector financial firms, growing threefold over the last decade.” 

  
Liberals aren’t the only ones to call for action.  In this week’s episode of our How Do We Fix It? podcast, University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, a well-known libertarian conservative blogger on Instapundit, calls for a surtax on top or regular earnings of at least 50% on pay hikes received by former senior government officials when they go back to the private sector.  

 “There are all kinds of laws to limit influence peddling and they’ve all been failures,” Reynolds told us.  Powerful interests are willing to pay large amounts of money to former cabinet members and top officials for what they know. “It seems only fair for the government to share in those profits.”

The revolving door, where Washington D.C. “Fat Cats” jump back-and-forth from powerful government positions to highly-paid lobbying and industry jobs, is a “corrupting influence,” says Reynolds.  He sees the tax code as the most powerful instrument to reduce this corrosive threat to our democracy.

His proposal may not go anywhere, but Glenn Reynolds, Matt Taibbi, Elizabeth Warren and others who’ve called to laws to slow down the “automatic door” deserve far more attention than they’ve received so far.