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David A. Hopkins

Did You Miss the Debate? It Didn’t Matter Anyway

This campaign season had fewer face-offs between candidates than in previous years — which is just as well because America's most memorable debate moments are just zingers and blunders.

Most people don’t this excited about a debate. 

Most people don’t this excited about a debate. 

Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

As the campaign winds down, one result is already clear: Candidate debates were less common this year, prompting at least one lament about “the loss of a valuable democratic institution.”

Debates are often portrayed this way — as sacred rites of democracy, offering citizens a unique opportunity to evaluate the men and women who seek the honor of representing them, and candidates who decline to participate risk accusations of arrogance, cowardice or underhandedness. But general-election debates in contests for high office seldom affect voters’ ultimate choice at the ballot box. And considering the way US debates actually operate, that’s actually a good thing.