It was enlightening to watch the ABC News/Facebook/WMUR Presidential debates this past Saturday night, for many reasons. I was aware of Obama and Huckabee's having won the Iowa caucuses, but honestly, I hadn't kept up much in terms of who-stands-for-what. The Indiana primary (where I live) doesn't occur until May, which is about two months after the Democratic and Republican nominees will have all but been determined. (The states with primaries later than ours are Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia.) I lived in New Hampshire many years ago, home of the nation's first primary, and was I born in New York, a state teeming with electoral votes. It's strange now living somewhere that barely registers in Presidential elections, other than as a place that can be counted on to go red literally within minutes of the polls closing.
Two things struck me most about the debates themselves. First, I appreciated seeing former Libertarian Ron Paul mix it up with the Republicans. His presence there changed the whole tenor of things, try as the other candidates might to stay "on message" and stick to their don't-let-them-seem-rehearsed sound bites. Though I have no intention of voting Republican, it was still refreshing to hear someone, finally, talking about the implications of the massive devaluation of the dollar that's occurred under Bush 43's watch. My only regret was that ABC News excluded Dennis Kucinich from the Democratic half of the debate. No doubt his presence there would have broadened the scope of the conversation and made it much more interesting.
Second, I was flabbergasted, as was the studio audience at New Hampshire's St. Anselm College, by a comment made by the debate moderator, ABC News' Charlie Gibson. He premised a question to the Democratic candidates about tax cuts by saying, "If you take a family of two professors here at Saint Anselm, they’re going to be in the $200,000 category that you’re talking about lifting the taxes on." Huh? Did I miss something here? Since when did it become routine for professors to make $100,000 per year or more? Apropos, there's a story in today's Inside Higher Education that talks about the public's misperception of the nature of, and compensation for, academic labor by full-time faculty. No wonder folks still can't manage to shake the myth of the ivory tower. Heck--most of what's in my office is made of plastic.