Spare us the “Zingers” in Tonight’s Debate!

The American presidential campaign has taken on a macabre quality. I am reminded of the movie Cabaret, in which revelers at the Kit Kat Klub defiantly pursue their bohemian lifestyle in the last days of the German Weimar Republic. Meanwhile, the shadow of the Nazi menace lurks in the background.

I half expect Joel Grey’s eerie “Willkommen” to greet the audience in Boulder, Colorado tonight as the two presidential candidates tap dance unto the debate stage. Yes, it has come to this.

Facing the most sobering economic challenges in nearly a century, the American people are being treated to a pony-and-dog show instead of a substantive discussion of the possible solutions.

Incredibly, the most important question being pondered by pundits today is who will “win” tonight’s debate. And the media are eagerly awaiting “zingers” promised by Mitt Romney’s campaign.

As if anyone could care about zingers – or winners.

In just one month, America must choose between two totally divergent paths forward. The way I see it, one will lead to a recovery and a commitment to the pursuit of “a more perfect union.” The other will plunge the nation into a Dickensonian nightmare, where the law of the jungle prevails and an all-powerful master class plunders at will.

To me the choice is clear. But roughly half of the country don’t see it my way.

To them, there are other more vital issues at stake. The legality of abortion is the most obvious. The rule of Biblical law is also being promoted as a replacement for America’s secular system of government. Even the role of government is in question: some would have the federal government do little more than run the military.

Th implications of this are staggering. Gone would be the social safety net so diligently woven together since the Great Depression. Gone would be public education, student aid, free school lunches, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, affordable health insurance, a woman’s right to control her own reproductive destiny – and, of course, civil rights.

The interests promoting this “free” America are hell bent on removing any regulation of corporate conduct. Targeted are such things as consumer protection, environmental controls and foodstuff inspections.

In such a country, roads would deteriorate, bridges would collapse, hospitals would sink to the level of the Crimean War, and ragged children would beg in the streets, splashed by mud as the members of the corporate elite speed past in their limousines.

Perhaps my vision is exaggerated. Perhaps my vision is totally wrong.

And if I am mistaken, I would appreciate  Mitt Romney setting me straight tonight. I want him to explain to me, in detail and without resorting to “talking points” just how I’ve been misled.

But – please – spare me the “zingers.”

This is no time for light entertainment. This is the time to study the facts, learn how the figures add up, understand what “hard choices” must be made.

But what do we hear coming from the Romney campaign? The promise of zingers.

And from the media? Appeals to Mitt Romney to show his “human” side.

I am sure Mitt can be a hoot when he’s with friends. He could well be witty and clever, and oh-so-entertaining.

But that’s not what I’m interested in tonight. If I wanted to hear Joel Grey (above, left), I would rent a video of Cabaret.

Click here for examples of zingers from past debates.

Click here for Joel Grey’s performance.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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