The final question of the democratic debate: “Tell us about a friendship you’ve had that would surprise us.”
I’m sorry… What?
I cannot fathom why the moderators chose to ask that question, which had to do with the recent controversy surrounding Ellen Degeneres’s friendship with George Bush. Over the course of the three-hour-long debate, they failed to ask candidates about immigration, housing, LGBTQ+ rights, or climate change*… Yet they somehow felt that a question about a television host’s friendship with a conservative leader was more important.
I mean, I do why this question was asked. I understand that the question wasn’t actually about Ellen. I understand that many want a candidate who can reach across party lines to pass legislation. I understand that many Americans are worried about how divided our nation is becoming.
But what about Americans who are worried about the safety of themselves and their loved ones? What about Americans facing homelessness? What about Americans whose basic civil rights are in jeopardy under the current administration? What about Americans who are terrified that our future will be stolen from us by climate change?
Why are their fears less important?
I theorize that the Ellen question was chosen for two reasons:
- These debates are playing to a specific population of voters: the middle class. And many members of the middle class are fortunate enough that their lives are not seriously impacted by a lot of policy issues. For many members of this population, or ability to “get along” with each other is one of the biggest issues Americans are facing right now.
- The Ellen controversy is entertaining! She’s a celebrity that America has known and loved for decades. And because everyone feels that they know Ellen, everyone has an opinion on her actions. And everyone wants to hear other people’s opinions! This question demonstrates the merge of hard and soft news, and the growing influence of pop culture on every facet of our lives- including politics.
*That’s just off the top of my head- I’m sure they also failed to talk about many other important issues.