I think debates are useless for party-faithful. They're more useful for "independents" who don't know jack about what's going on and vote based on candidates image.This wasn't the first time I'd heard statements like this, so I had to explain to him why debates actually matter in the process of choosing a nominee. Simply put, I disagree on both counts. I am one of the (some would argue naive) people that actually is trying to see if potential candidates can actually back their platforms and get a sense for how they would perform under pressure. I don't care for Obama as a president much at all, but I'm also not willing to vote for some random guy off the street just because he isn't Obama, which is what some of the Republican candidates seem to be banking on. I'm paying as much attention to debates as possible and if a potential candidate can't defend their positions, comes across as clueless, or just seems like the same empty suit toting the party-line rhetoric, they're not going to get my interest or support. I think the debates serve a pretty important purpose when it comes to seeing how the candidates interact with each other, defend (or don't) their positions, and respond to criticism. I don't really consider myself an independent, but I don't think being as informed as possible about your potential options is a useless exercise.
The first step towards putting some sanity back into politics is to actually pay attention to what is going on. If you're not making sure you do enough research into a candidate, especially someone you are trusting to run the country for four years, to have some real concrete reasons for voting for them you're part of the problem with the US and our political system in general. Don't vote for a candidate based off 30 second TV ads. Don't vote for a candidate because of the party letter by their name. Don't vote for a candidate because they use some flashy rhetoric that makes you feel good. Do your research. Know the issues and where you stand on them. Vote for someone you think represents those issues. Democracy only gets good results when you are an informed voter. There's no room for laziness.