Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Does anybody think a 14-candidate forum works – except to create chaos?

I’m usually of the sort when it comes to candidate forums and debates that it’s wrong to think in terms of fringe candidates and paring down the field to only certain political aspirants.
Can we 'decide' amongst mayoral candidates if we don't see them side by side? Or would such a forum be little more than political chaos?
If a candidate manages to get a spot on a ballot and will be an option come Election Day, I say its downright reckless to try to exclude them. People have a right to know exactly who the ding-dongs are whose names are before them when they make choices for political office.

BUT I HAVE to admit; that viewpoint of mine is being tested by the upcoming election cycle for Chicago municipal government – particularly for that of mayor.

I’m talking about the cycle that’s going to ask voters to pick from amongst 14 candidates who managed to make it past the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners’ process for putting together the Feb. 26 ballot.

WFLD-TV (as in Channel 32) is planning a pair of candidate forums they will televise, come Thursday and Friday.

The Thursday program will feature the campaigns of Toni Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza, Gery Chico, Bill Daley and Willie Wilson. Friday’s forum will be for everybody else – as in the candidates who are not considered as having as strong of support as the Big Five.

OR, AS CANDIDATE Paul Vallas put it, “we get invited to the children’s table.”

It doesn’t surprise me that judgment calls are being made as to which of the 14 candidates ought to be taken seriously and are worthy of news coverage. It would be kind of ridiculous to equate former Alderman Robert Fioretti’s mayoral campaign with that of Preckwinkle.

But it also means feelings are being hurt by the candidates who are finding out they’re not going to be taken as seriously as the Big Five! Both Vallas and Amara Enyia both complained publicly about their exclusion, with Enyia taking the stance that this is the political establishment trying to pre-determine the Election Day outcome. She’d even be correct in saying that the polls showing the Big Five in the lead actually show no one has a ridiculously-large lead and the “children’s table” candidates aren’t that far behind the leaders.
It almost seems like everybody wants to work out of the Fifth Floor office at City Hall for the next four years
Of course, she’s also getting hammered these days by the Chicago Tribune for the moments of ineptitude she has had in her personal finances and in government posts she has held in the suburbs.

IF ANYTHING, IT would be interesting to have a candidate forum of sorts so that we could see Enyia side-by-side with the bigger names so we could see for ourselves just how much she is lacking by comparison. Although I expect the kind of people who back her because she has a rap music star on her side will not care much.

But I’m not optimistic that such a forum could occur.

Mostly because I don’t have a clue how you’d stage such an event. How could you have a credible debate program with 14 people each trying to respond to each other, and come up with smart-aleck retorts to each other’s insults?
Is this the inevitable outcome … 

When you consider that a debate is likely to be an hour-long event – at most – trying to include everybody would most likely result in everybody getting one question. There wouldn’t be enough time to ask anything more and expect everybody to answer.

AND BEFORE YOU say the forum could be lengthened, I’d retort that, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Trying to stage several hours of political blather (which is what many political debates devolve into) would insure that nobody sits through and sees the whole thing.
… for an April 2 run-off election?

The tedium would cause so many channels to be changed in mid-debate.

It might well be that this freak-show of an election cycle with so many candidates is just the type of thing that makes for bad television. It certainly wouldn’t be possible to do much of a debate – no matter how much political people try to follow the usual conventions to do so.

Unless you’re really that eager to see and hear La Shawn Ford and Jeremiah Joyce exchange retorts, while Daley sighs at the sight of other people trying to seek the political post that certain types of Chicagoans may regard as his birthright.


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