Offices, Debates, Local Politics

I get a good amount of mail, with all sorts of topics.

Now and again, people will write to me, and ask if I’d ever run for office. Some ask with simple curiosity, others as a rebuke (as though if one would not run for office, then there’s some lack of public-spiritedness to blame).

I’ve never yearned to run for office, but that doesn’t mean I think that political office is a bad idea for others. It’s just that not everyone has to have the same idea: some are politicians, some reporters, some bureaucrats, others are bloggers, volunteers, or activists, and still others committed to a purely private life. I don’t believe that everyone has to be everything, or even try everything.

My view of running for office is like that of William F. Buckley, when he ran for mayor of New York City as a third-party candidate in the ’60s. When asked what he would do if he actually won, Buckley replied that he’d demand a recount.

There’s a second question that comes my way, often with the first question: would I ever debate someone, in town or elsewhere?

Well, why not? I’ve offered these pages for different debates over the years, and those are still-standing offers. At the same time, I’d debate someone in person, recorded or otherwise, if the topic presented itself. That’s the truth of a debate, though: it’s a topic, not a person, that makes all the difference.

As for those whom one might engage in a typical debate, the best opponent is always the strongest possible one. One looks to make a case, to advocate for something, and the best case and strongest advocacy emerge in a debate with a skillful, accomplished opponent.

Some of the most compelling debates are those with two people, at a table with a moderator, simply responding to each other in a give-and-take format. (The 2000 vice-presidential debate between Cheney and Lieberman was a good format of this kind.)

We probably have too few public debates, especially between candidates for office, than we should. If the League of Women Voters didn’t sponsor local debates, there’d be none. We have reason to be grateful for their efforts.

A debate — print, radio, television — needs an interesting topic, an open and challenging format, and the right timing. The new year will offer presidential primaries, Wisconsin recalls, and general elections at all levels next November. Those topics are necessarily the most important, and candidates involved in such contentious pursuits will — legitimately and reasonably — draw (by far) the most attention. One can do more than one thing during a year, but it would be silly to doubt that the most important debates will be between political candidates.

Along the lines of ideas and topics, I’m thinking about opening up comments on more posts, with the same moderation as now (mostly against profanity or trolls). It’s not concern about contrary points of view, but about the timeliness of my own comment moderation, that leaves me uncertain.

There’s an energy from pondering different possibilities that wait in the year ahead. Just one small reason, on top of many profound ones, to love this time of year.

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