A few observations from a birds eye view of the event
By Ken DeLaat
They started filling the gym soon after the doors opened at 5pm. TV crews began to get their gear readied while tables and chairs created the setting that would serve the moderator and candidates delivering their message to an audience that would fill the gym like a Grant/Newaygo basketball game.
The room was buzzing beforehand and when Dr. Rob Davidson walked in a large contingency of attendees tossed out a lengthy and enthusiastic cheer. Later a vocal, albeit noticeably smaller, group heralded the arrival of current U.S. Representative Bill Huizenga.
It likely lacked the entrance drama associated with a heavyweight fight but for a political debate in a high school gym significantly smaller than a Las Vegas venue, it created a appreciable bit of excitement and anticipation.
Moderator Rich Wheater did an outstanding job in his role. His introduction as to the guidelines of the event were delivered clearly and concisely as were the questions posed to the twosome while his ability to blend in a bit of well placed humor on occasion integrated nicely with the spirit of the evening.
The setting was what one can expect given the limitations inherent in a multi-use facility with a huge focus on a couple of primary uses. The school did a great job getting ready and clearing the way for the contest and the co-sponsoring RC Chamber handled the infrastructure of the event very effectively.
The crowd was likely leaning toward one of the candidates and their reaction to the answers given by the two definitely put this preference on display. However, outside of a few of what might very well be short spontaneous non-verbal reactions by some attendees (a bit of a groan here, maybe a snort or two there), the crowd remained polite, courteous and appeared to be genuinely interested in listening to what each candidate had to say.
I was duly impressed by the number of young people in attendance who were interested in what was happening and/or assigned to go via Government class.
As to the debate itself, despite enormous technological limitations on the part of this reporter N3 was able to livestream the event on our fb page and it is currently running there. The best way to determine who might have bested the other would be to view it for yourself and come to your own conclusions, but here is our opinion as to who won this debate.
The people of the 2nd Congressional District to be sure, but particularly for those of us who live in this area. To have candidates come to one of our high school gyms and field questions selected from emails sent in from district residents serves as a huge win.
Too often we enter the ballot booth unaware of who the candidates might be much less what their stance is on key issues. Instead we are exposed to slanted television ads, social media posts with little regard for accuracy or integrity and colorful postcards that fill our mailbox every couple of years and none of these sources provide anything other than what the late musician Frank Zappa once called ‘cosmic debris’.
This debate was democracy in action. Two of the likely leading candidates for a coveted job sitting through an interview with the employers/constituents who would eventually hand the job over to one of them for the next two years.
Much is said about the divisiveness in this country, an estrangement encouraged by the questionable use of a variety of media and primarily, it seems, social media.
And I cannot pretend that those in attendance Monday night might not be victims of that same dynamic.
But on this night, in that town, and in one particular gymnasium?
People listened to what the two had to say. They listened and afterwards they could be seen interacting with each other...talking about what they had just witnessed and what they had just heard.
That speaks of hope.
And a big, big win.
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