What if Obama had debated as aggressively as Romney?
Even though most reports on the president’s demeanor during the debate referred to him as a subdued, almost distant, debater, you only needed to tune into Fox News to hear accusations of the president’s facial expressions only subtly masking his utter contempt for Mitt Romney. Imagine the fodder for those on the right if President Obama had been anything other than restrained and humble.
We won’t likely get a chance to see this since 1) now he is considered an underdog in the next debate – a distinct advantage and 2) being an underdog will make almost any slight amplification of his debate behavior in the next round, satisfactory for his supporters without the possibility of alienating any one who thinks that anger is an inherent trait of blackness.
Even though the president’s camp has conceded the fact that he under performed (read: over compensated for the mad-black-man factor), they will not find it prudent to admit to any form of the strategy briefly outlined here. But consider his too-humble closing statement, his reserved demeanor, his overall debate performance and his assertive presence in front of 30,000 plus supporters in Madison, WI on the very next day.
Clearly, President Obama’s first debate performance involved a subtle strategy. Maybe it worked; maybe it didn’t. But remember this. If you see two people fighting at a distance — the way in which most of the 62 million viewers watched the debate — colloquial wisdom suggests that you can never tell who started it, much less who is telling the truth or operating in the interest of accuracy and clarity.
President Obama’s strategy considered this in the run-up to the first debate and his most ardent supporters, as well as the media, have been hammering Romney’s inauthenticity ever since.
James Braxton Peterson is the Director of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University. He is also the founder of Hip Hop Scholars LLC, an association of hip-hop generation scholars dedicated to researching and developing the cultural and educational potential of hip-hop, urban and youth cultures. You can follow him on Twitter @DrJamesPeterson