The Conflict

One thing that comes clear watching these debates is that there's an inherent tension between trying to turn them into good television and trying to provide some kind of illumination those of us whose views on the race shift around. I think everyone agrees that question eight about gay marriage produced some of the evening's highlights:

These were highlights, though, purely as television. Neither that question nor the other gay marriage one had any actual probative value. All the major candidates face the same dilemma -- to be viable in the primary, you need to be supportive of gay and lesbian equality, while to be viable in the general election, you need to be against gay marriage -- and they've all hit upon essentially the same policy solutions, and we all knew all of that already. It was interesting to watch them squirm, just as it's interesting to wonder which candidates are adopting a posture that's more sympathetic to gay marriage than their gut convictions and which are adopting a posture that's less sympathetic. In neither case, though, has anything happened that would sway one's vote -- the candidates all have the same stand that we know they all have.