I have watched all of the televised debates so far during this presidential campaigning season. None of them got me all teary-eyed with patriotic thoughts. Despite the fireworks Donald Trump has created during the Republican debates, I was not filled with nostalgic images of 4th of July festivities. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders didn't fill me with pride for being a citizen of the world's most powerful country.
What I realized, instead, is that presidential debates are just like speed dating.
That's right, the sound bites rolling off the candidates' tongues reminded me of that great American invention, speed dating, which enables lucky men and women to go out on a dozen dates in a single evening.
I salute you, Speed Dating!
The origins of speed dating can be traced to Rabbi Yaacov Deyo of Aish HaTorah in Los Angeles. The good rabbi devised "SpeedDating" as a way to help Jewish singles meet. In fact, SpeedDating (as a single word) is a registered trademark of Aish HaTorah. Alas, "speed dating" (two words) has become the generic term for similar events, so no royalty is paid to Rabbi Deyo or Aish HaTorah.
The first SpeedDating event took place at Peet's Café in Beverly Hills in 1998. The concept took hold quickly as savvy businesses began offering similar round-robin dating events across the U.S. When speed dating was portrayed on the Sex and the City television show, the concept officially became part of the popular culture.
If speed dating is anything, it's efficient. Typically, 10 or 12 men and women attend the dating extravaganza. One by one, every woman has a "date" with every man, with each date lasting about six minutes. At the end of the proscribed time limit, a bell signals the men to move on to the next woman in line.
It's like dating on steroids
Anyone who has ever been to a speed dating event can tell you that this dating-on-steroids format can be fun and quite productive. I attended a speed dating event when I was single, and I found it easy to discern in a mere six minutes whether I wanted to see a woman again. As Malcolm Gladwell's famous book, Blink, attests, the human brain is somehow hardwired to make some decisions very quickly. And this includes whether you like someone you've just met.
But can that same principle be applied to choosing a presidential candidate to support? I think so. Much like a speed date, every candidate in a presidential debate is given a specific amount of time to answer a question or address an issue. Sometimes one candidate is interrupted during his time, which does not happen during a speed date, because there's nobody to interrupt you. Yet the question and answer formats of a speed date and a presidential debate are very similar.
Whether on a date or in a debate, sometimes the dater's/candidate's answers are serious and self-serving. At other times the answers are meant to reveal a sense of humor. Sometimes stories are told that are designed to convey empathy and the wisdom of experience.
At the end of a speed dating event, the participants cast ballots to vote for those with whom they would like to go out on a real date. At the end of a presidential debate, each candidate has striven to be sufficiently impressive to earn the viewers' vote--to eventually go beyond dating and "go steady" all the way through the election.
During the first Republican debate, Mr. Trump was the "date" who everyone was talking about. He abandoned dating decorum and political correctness by being aggressive and bombastic. In other words, he was being himself. Sure, he offended some viewers, but in presidential politics and dating, self-confidence can be a very attractive trait.
The other Republican candidates have been trying to catch up ever since. Dr. Ben Carson and Jeb Bush both come across and nice guys who are basically boring. We all know that women don't want to go out with boring nice guys. Hillary Clinton comes off as bitchy and bossy--which is exactly what men ARE NOT looking for in a date--or a presidential candidate. Bernie Sanders would be a great guy at a neighborhood barbecue, but nobody wants to date him. All of the other candidates are basically forgettable--which is the kiss of death both on a date and in a Presidential debate.
What's in store for us as we watch the next presidential speed dating extravaganza? Watch for the invisible candidates to do something--anything--to be memorable. Look for outrageous statements. Listen to them for a horrible mistake that will make them completely undatable.
But always watch Donald Trump. Because whether you love him or you hate him, he's the guy that everyone secretly wants to go out with on another date.