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Stateside with Rosalea: Veep, Veep

Stateside with Rosalea

Veep, Veep

You only had to look at who was moderating last night's vice presidential debates to see how rankism works in the United States. And the saddest thing is that many people would think that it was sooo democratic and inclusive to have a non-white, non-male sitting in the moderator's chair.

Let's look at who is moderating the presidential debates. Jim Lehrer was the first; he's the anchor and executive editor of The Newshour on PBS, the public broadcasting channel. The next one will be Charles Gibson, co-anchor, ABC News Good Morning America, and the third will be Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent, and moderator, Face the Nation. Those programs are respectively evening news, morning news, and Sunday talking heads and are all carried on free-to-air nationwide networks.

The veep debate moderator, Gwen Ifill, is a senior correspondent on The Newshour, and the moderator of Washington Week, another PBS program. Judging from her work, which includes interviewing some extremely testy guests live on air in just that exact moderator-plus-two format, there is no reason in the world that she shouldn't be the moderator of a presidential debate. Except for sheer rankism, which was probably in play on several levels.

Perhaps the anchors of news and current affairs shows on the other free-to-air national network, NBC, and on the cable TV stations turned down the offer of moderating a veep debate because it would make them look like lesser beings. And perhaps the presidential candidates refused to be moderated by a mere "senior correspondent" because they thought it would somehow diminish the importance of what they had to say.

You probably think these comments against rankism are a bit odd coming from someone who supports ranked choice voting - the very essence of which is obviously ranking things! But there is a great difference between ranking people on their merit and ranking people on their job title or their race, age, gender, etc, in the mistaken belief that those attributes equate to their merit.

Anyways, I didn't get home till near the end of the debate and as usual was more curious about how it was presented to the many different audiences here in the States, than in its content. Curiously, the subscription channels (cable/satellite) all use split screens so you can see the other person's reaction, but none of the free-to-air channels that carry the debates do.

As usual after the debate, it had to be interpreted for us by the punditry. I've just recently learned that the existence of that class of folks arose out of the way in which the university system evolved in the US. Getting a degree very quickly became a mark of the middle class here at the end of the nineteenth century, and as the middle class grew in numbers and in its sense of self-importance, the "trade", if you will, of being an expert and interpreter to the general public also grew in size and importance.

One of the CSPAN channels - a cable entity that broadcasts Congress, etc - instead of a pundit-fest had three phone lines open for callers at the end of the veep debate. One line was for Cheney supporters, ditto Edwards supporters, and the third line for undecideds. I get the impression those lines are rigged in the sense that the parties have people standing by to call in, so you end up hearing some pat comment rather than the spontaneous reaction of a free-thinking individual.

One ratbag from California got on air via the undecided line and said that he still didn't like either Cheney or Edwards, but he wished he could have seen Peter Camejo up there in the debate. Camejo is Ralph Nader's vice presidential running mate, and he made an excellent showing for himself when he was included in the debates here in CA when he was running for governor on the Green Party ticket.

Nader isn't the Green Party nominee for President this time around, though he is on the ballot in most states either as an independent candidate or as the nominee of one (and in one state, two) of any number of smaller parties. But not in California, where the Democrats managed to keep the Nader-Camejo ticket off the ballot altogether. As the caller to CSPAN said, he'll be writing in Nader's name when he goes to vote.


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