Mark Lawson inveighs against the influence of the West Wing
in his Guardian column today, arguing that the whole desire for TV debates between the party leaders comes from the British political class’s obsession with the show. Lawson is right that the show has had a huge influence on British politicos
; on a small level, I think the whole fashion for pedeconferencing can be dated to the show’s arrival on our screens.
But having been in the States for two campaigns worth of presidential debates, I suspect that their importance is slightly exaggerated. Reagan Carter moments are rare. Indeed, the Bush Kerry debates didn’t change the contours of the race and nor did the McCain Obama ones. It is rare that a candidate knocks his opponent out or even sends him onto the canvass. Moments like this only happen on the West Wing
PS This moment from the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate is the nearest there has been to a West Wing moment in an actual debate, but it is worth pointing out that Quayle’s side still won the election by a massive margin.