Richard Carter, Chairman of the Ventura County Democratic Party.
That should be a surprising outcome, considering he was the moderator. I've publicly criticized him in the recent past, but fairness dictates that I credit him when he performs a good deed.
Carter and his team reached out to a libertarian and a conservative Republican and invited them to debate a Democrat (and an independent, who couldn't make it to the event). They sponsored a fair and open debate, and gave each participant an even chance to convince the left-leaning audience of the superiority of their positions.
No minds were changed.
I have a soft spot for people that make an effort to try to open a dialogue with ideological opponents in good faith--it's a naivete of mine I hold onto tightly so it's not lost in the glare of the endless daily partisan political war that's fought on print, TV, radio, and online all the time. Seeing an invitation go out for a friendly debate to me is like seeing a white flag of truce. For centuries, the flag ensured that the bitter fighting could stop for a few moments and combatants could sit down to reason together, even in enemy territory with safe passage ensured. To show my support for this idea, I traveled to Simi Valley to watch the debate. And if the panel were the combatants, then that would make me a war correspondent whose role it is to publicize any incidents of disrespect to the flag of truce.
As I stated before, Carter deserved credit for refereeing a fair match. How did the audience behave? There was a lot of hooting and hollering from the heavily Democratic audience, but guess what? It's their club, their home turf. I played against other town's baseball teams in the Midwest and I never expected their fans to cheer for me. When you're the visiting team, you don't have the advantage of having the crowd on your side, but so what it's fair.
I did hear some inappropriate things from a few individual audience members, but it wasn't anything egregious. The worst breach of the truce came when a Tea Party supporter tried to start a shouting match with the Democratic debater about abortion.
Now, I realize abortion is an emotional subject. I have strong feelings about it. But let's think about this practically. I previously opined that this debate was an opportunity for Tea Partiers to show mainstream Democrats that they aren't the irrational, angry people the elite media portrays them to be.
How do you think shouting like an irrational, angry person comes across to a Democrat? Like you just confirmed every single suspicion they had about you. Great job, way to influence others.
In contrast to that unruly audience member, the Tea Party organizer who was on the debate panel embodied the exact opposite of angry. She was quiet, calm, and didn't even want to comment on social issues. However, she didn't quite have the polished talking points at her disposal that her opponents possessed, and so she did not sway the crowd.
Incidentally, I don't regard having polished talking points to be a good thing, but nevertheless that's what the debate degenerated into--the professional Republican and the professional Democrat trading statistics and cliches and getting nowhere.
I do have to point out one low blow the Democrat took. Setting aside the fact that she was perhaps the smuggiest smug that ever smugged during a debate--she couldn't help but to make childish faces during her opponents' responses--she resorted to calling her conservative opponents "tea baggers" for identifying Obama's healthcare plan "Obamacare." As the Republican pointed out, that's a descriptive and political term, not an insulting sexual term like "tea bagger." Republicans do not get upset when Reaganomics is discussed, why should Democrats melt down when Obamacare is mentioned? Oh, and just to show you how classy this lady was, she said that trickle-down economics is when the middle class "gets pissed on," which is sort of what she did to the flag of truce.
She, and a few of the audience members, seem to be the type of people that would invite someone to a "pig party." A pig party is where some cool kids invite some nerds to a party, pretending they like them so that they can get them in a room to sneer and make fun of them in not-so-subtle ways.
She could have learned a lesson in civility from Carter, who--even though he had opportunities to embarrass the participants--compensated for her intransigence by acting appropriately and courteously to the panel. Due to that, and the absence of a masterful performance by one of the conservatives, he (and by extension his organization) walks away from this one the winner.