PT 21 | Debate Season


What is a debate? Today, Bill Stierle and Tom share their thoughts on the debate season. Reviewing its meaning and purpose, they share their ideas on the importance of content rather than knowing who the smarter party is. In politics, there are fake and illusionary leaders. Through debates, these heads are challenged through their words and whether their actions follow after that. Bill and Tom talk about how candidates build their narratives on stage, citing Donald Trump’s tactics on relaying information. They then note that incorporating truth allows you to not only react as a human being but to engage in a human being as well.

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What To Expect This Debate Season

Bill, I’m excited to talk about something that is going to be important for a lot of episodes we’re going to do in the future. We’re coming into debate season. I almost hesitate to call it a season because it’s going to go onto 2020, running up to the next election. I want to talk about this because I have some thoughts that I want to share with you and I’d love to know your feelings on. Are these initial debates that are going to have more than twenty people in them to start on the democratic side actually debates?

The thing to think about is the debate as the debate works. How have we been able to talk about a debate? What is a debate? It isn’t between two people with countering points of view. What is the outcome that we’re looking for from the debate process? How do we get the debate process to work for us and serve us as a reader, as somebody that was looking to learn about the candidates? Let’s take a look at some of those. As a communication specialist, the thing I look for is how do you create an impact in the words you say? How do you make things count? A couple of different values for us to take a look at and to frame is our words and phrases like conviction. Is this person speaking with a conviction? Notice I didn’t say content because the smartest person doesn’t win the debate.

It’s not what they say as much as how they say it?

That’s correct. It’s how they say it and it’s energized and engaged in what the person is saying because the speaker is in touch with their why. Why am I saying the things that I’m saying? If I want my cells in my body to create a sense of urgency with communication, I need to anchor something in here and allow that to be my motive for the tone that is coming out of my body. One of the things that you did not see with a couple of sentences was that I was anchoring on contribution and awareness. As soon as I did that, my tone changed and my conviction rose. As I pulled the curtain back and said, “By the way, here’s what I did,” it becomes a little funny. It’s not inauthentic because that’s what I did. If I didn’t believe in the power of communication to change things, that’s not much of a job or a lifestyle or work to do to contribute to people. I believe in it because we’ve got to get engagement to take place. Imagine what it would be like on that debate stage, when whatever that candidate says, there is an engagement with the listener.

Bill, when we have a debate between two or three people where one candidate is asked a question and the other candidate or a couple of candidates are allowed to have a rebuttal, that is an important part of the normal debate process. When you have ten people on a stage, each asked an individual question and there isn’t an opportunity for rebuttal, it’s maybe not a real debate. What you were saying there is it’s an opportunity for each candidate to communicate with the citizens of the country. If they do it properly or in a better way than just answering your question with their plan, their facts, it can become much more for them.

There are needs to be a fundamental change in the way this entire process works with new media and the way truth needs to be disseminated. It has to be done differently. It can’t be done by soundbite, even though the one that won last time won by doing it by soundbite. We need a process that allows the voters to come and say, “Here’s the way these things are going to be approved by. Here are the messages that we’d like to run in front of people so people can see who these different candidates are.” The other part of the media doesn’t get to pigeonhole and put them in a box too early.” A lot of the candidates that are well-known in their state can’t get their voices out because they look like as many comedians are pointing out, “Is it the dad that drives your kids in the carpool? Are these your high school principals?” The three white guys that are high school principals. I’ve heard jokes like that.

Division and confusion leaks power. Click To Tweet

One of them is talking about climate change. The other one is talking about dealing with the immigration issue. They’re all picking their things, but they can’t get up because here are the ones that are known. Here are the ones that are ahead in the polls. The media is going to follow that process instead of the template for voting media engagement. The digestion of information and knowledge has got to be done in a different way. Let’s go ahead and work with the system. We’re not going to change that, but what we are doing is setting a vision for what does identity look like? What do qualifications look like? In retrospect, it might’ve looked like Hillary Clinton putting out two-minute videos of different points and blasting that out into social media with their social media team, being interviewed in friendly places and knowing that her opponent is going completely external. It’s like a reality show Apprentice-style, “Fire this person, get rid of the swamp.” All these different talking points and create the story narrative of the good reason why.

When Barack Obama ran, what was so effective is he wrote two books and put those two books out first. When anybody took a shot at him or tried to put them in one of the boxes. The one that the Republicans tried is Sarah Palin saying, “What do we know about Barack Obama?” Immediately, what the many did was jump all over this like, “What we know is he’s written two books. One about his upbringing and one about what he’d like to see for America. What did John McCain do?” He’s a war healer, but this is a person that’s demonstrating leadership rather than running on loyalty, sacrifice and fighting for your country. I’ve been there and done that and I’m a loyal guy. Do you see how I minimalized John McCain?

It’s not to minimalize at all. It’s to do a communication comparison. The communication comparison is that, how does a person create a point of view, deliver conviction, elicit engagement that their identity is an identity I want to follow and an identity I want to vote for? That identity, that following has to be rooted in a specific set of values. They’re not going to get everything right, but they are going to be a supportive force moving forward. Number two, I can engender and push forth trust between my vote and that person. I know they’re going to make mistakes, but I am trusting their leadership. Why? Because I have seen the way they’ve led before in the past. What the brain doesn’t do a good job of is distinguished between real leadership and fake leadership.

Fake leadership is having a reality show boss fire people. That’s an illusionary leadership. It’s constructed with illusion. Real leadership is the ability to handle, work through complex problems, deal with the conflicts along the way and the pushback and still comes out on the other side and say, “These are the ways they said it. The things they said against what I was doing wasn’t really true.” There’s no mistake that Donald Trump’s leadership has been congruent. He fires people. What kind of people does he fire? People that are not very good people. What are those not very good people? People that have a brand identity and come to this reality show in order to boost their exposure. All of those contestants on The Apprentice, where are they now? Are they leading a country or a company of any great size? Are they creating? No, they’re looking for their next moment to be on film. Do you see the difference?

I do. It does feel like the jobs in the White House, many of them are not filled. Many of the cabinet members have been fired that the President does treat the White House very much like his TV show and fires them. Let’s not get off on that tangent so much as we come into these first debates.

It’s the same.

PT 21 | Debate Season

Debate Season: Loyalty is a very important need, but not at the expense of justice, fairness, mutual respect.


Help us with that. These candidates are going to have their minutes to answer a question. What’s the challenge and opportunity?

What are these candidates going to do? Yes, Donald Trump has treated this experience that he is in as a president the same as his reality show. He’s fired many good people on both sides. It is his phrase, good people. What are you looking for, resume, experience? No, you’re looking for an impact on how they can create a traction or an interest. Most of the time, the things in Donald Trump’s world that have a difficult experience are going to appear as boring to him. He might say that up in these debates coming up, it might say, “This is boring because it’s not good TV. It’s not a good reality show.” It won’t get any traction.

I’m imagining that he might. He’s not interested in or can handle the complexity of leading an entire economy, leading an entire country, leading various different factions. He can’t lead from the big place. He can only lead what’s in his boardroom. He can only lead what’s in his rally with his base. He can lead that group. That group will follow him right ahead because they’ve already advocated trust. They’ve already given over trust. They’ve already handed over their loyalty. Why? He asked for it. Loyalty is a very important need, but not at the expense of justice, fairness, mutual respect. You could do loyalty if you’d like. You could do loyalty the way Jack Nicholson did in A Few Good Men. We based ourselves on loyalty. Loyalty is great. Not at the expense of life. Not at the expense of integrity. You don’t do it that way, but that’s the way he’s done it.

Values, what does a candidate need to do because that’s the thing? They’ve got to get a moment of trust and integration to take place. They’ve got to build a benevolent community to come together. They need to be, “This is what our nation is going. This is how our nation is moving forward. This is the story of our nation.” One of the primary stories is this is the way American rolls, that’s the way we roll. We roll by we have thousands of people coming into our country. The way we roll, we provide stable safety and protection for the people that show up at our border. We provide stability for the people that fly into our country to visit on a visa, but integrity that they leave when they say they’re going to leave. What the candidate needs to do is to craft a message that identifies a point of view that lives in the space of conviction, that creates a moment of engagement. I can vote for this person in the next round. I think I’d like this candidate a bit better. I could see that this person’s identity is all about fighting for the things I want to fight for.

Do you think, Bill, that a candidate on that stage who’s asked a question and has a minute to answer it, regardless of the question, can build that narrative?

Yes. No matter what the question is, I can develop a three-sentence response that will create a point of view, the conviction behind it, the engagement is necessary, represent the identity that we would like as America. That’s inclusion of a Republican party that would like a separate identity from that. I can include their identity. I can still meet the need for respect. I could still meet the need for fairness and protection for people at the border, but they’re not doing that. They’re separating us in the attempt to divide. Division and confusion leak power. If you’re in a place of confusion, I don’t know what happened, what went wrong, then you’re going to leak power. You’re not going to be in the position of strength.

Fake leadership is having a reality show boss fire people. Click To Tweet

These are some things for us to think about in the future, Tom. I like us to take a look at the next show as one that we’re in a pre-position on a debate. We want to look at these debates because as different people are reading these out of order because that’s what they’re doing. They’ve got to get ahold of what their truth is. If I am going to purchase truth for myself and I get to buy truth the way I want it and I want to have the truth’s truth. I want the other perspective of truth so that I’m not reacting as a human being. I’m engaging in a human being. That’s the way I’d like to take the next piece because we’re going to have a couple of debates coming up here that we to engage with in a very honest way for our readers so they have the opportunity to have that quality that would more serve them through the process.

After these first few debates to look at certain questions and answers of the candidates and see how well did they do and how well did their message come across? Did they succeed? Did they fail? What they could have done differently? That would have helped their situation much more. It will be a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking, but it’ll certainly be a lot of fun.

I will be able to help them, inform them in the future about what these candidates need to do. Whether it is the front runners, whether it’s Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker. They’re on the front. They’re all lining up. The other ones that want to take a run at these things, we can put a list of them. They’ve got to claim the vision for America that’s going to work. Let’s pick it up from there next time and we can move it forward.

It sounds great, Bill. Thanks so much.

Thanks, Tom.

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