the art of debate

It’s no secret. Ask my friends. Ask my family.

I love a good debate.

But maybe just maybe we need to clarify what a debate is. It’s basically a formal discussion where questions are asked and opposing arguments are put forward. It’s a forum in which varied opinion and perspective are put forth for consideration and scrutiny. And precisely because that’s what it is, we learn. We gain a deeper understanding. And often we craft solution.

Being the current events nerd that I can sometimes be, this wit-and-wisdom appreciating blogger watches debates from all political angles and aisles. As said, I learn. And I indeed gain a deeper understanding.

But I have to say — with primary season now upon us — they haven’t been all that fun for me as of late. They haven’t been all that good for multiple years. With all due respect to our elect — and I really want to be kind here — Presidents Biden and Trump have kind of ruined this for me.

I don’t think either knows how to debate.

Not only so… way too many others have followed their unfortunate lead. 

Allow me to explain.

There’s a Medium blogger with the pseudo-name “Smart Minds Together.” He/she (not trying to be politically correct — just don’t know actual gender) penned a great piece last November entitled “The Joy of Disagreement: Why the Right Debate Leads to Positive Outcomes.”  [Insert editorial note: let there be no not-so-subtle plagiarism here.]

Writes the “Smart Mind”: “When approached in the right way, debate can be a powerful tool for growth, learning, and positive change.”


He/she goes on to demonstrate how a good debate expands perspective, encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills, strengthens relationships, drives innovation and progress, and promotes personal growth and empathy. 

In fact, the “Smart Mind” poignantly points out how history is filled with examples of how debates have led to groundbreaking breakthroughs:

  • The scientific method was developed through rigorous debates among philosophers and scientists.
  • Civil rights movements gained momentum through passionate debates about equality and justice.
  • Inventions like the telephone and electricity emerged from debates around technological possibilities.

He/she writes: “By embracing disagreement and engaging in healthy debates, we create an environment where ideas clash, leading to transformative change and societal progress.”

Excellent. We need that… transformative change and societal progress. Notice that disagreement is welcome; disrespect is not.

But note — and I am only making observations, observations which are held by far more than me — for our two most recent presidents; one, when participating, seems to most employ interruption and insult on the debate stage. The other seems incapable of consistently, coherently participating. Please, friends, make excuses for neither. They make enough for themselves. They seemingly attempt to give us nice-sounding reasons why they do what they do. But each of their nice-sounding reasons seems untruthful.

I’m not attempting to be disrespectful in any way. The point is simply that the behavior of our two most recent presidents in regard to their debate approach seems to again model poor leadership. We are not well served by their behavior.

We need good debates; we need those groundbreaking breakthroughs. We need progress and expanded perspective and problem solving. 

We need better and more.