I once read an article in Readers' Digest explaining how owners tend to choose their dogs based on how compatible their personalties are. Not only are the dog's base personality similar to the owners, but over time, their behavior would begin to mimic their owners'. As I sat through a debate between two candidates for the Georgia House of Representatives, I noticed that certain behaviors exhibited by candidates Kelly Stewart and Angelika Kausche were mirrored by the reactions of their audience.
Let's break apart audience dynamics. Being present is a bare requirement for an audience. To be present at an event indicates a higher level of interest. Take open curriculum classes as an example. If every class were voluntary, those taking the course would obviously be interested in it.
But the audience I was a part of went above and beyond this requirement.
Through raucous clapping and hypocritical judgement, each audience cluster represented a facet of their candidate.
Take Kelly Stewart for example. In her opening statement, she already began attacking her opponent, Kausche. In response, Stewart's audience adopted a more aggressive stance when it came to supporting their candidate, including rapid calling and interruptions within an answer. Kausche spent her opening statement presenting a sympathetic position and agreeing with them. Stewart was on pure attack mode.
After talking to staunch Kausche supporters after the debate, I found that they agreed that Stewart and her supporters seemed very aggressive. But the supporters I talked to refused to admit any of Kausche's weaknesses.
During the debate, there were key people on both sides who refused to give their candidate's opposition the same respect from afforded to people they knew. While its hard, many audience members could have made an effort to recognize the validity of the candidate. Like the man who blatantly disrupted his own candidate, I think some of us fall prey to that mentality. I think it should be also be baked into a debate that the other side usually has one or two valid points.
But ultimately, the divide I saw between Stewart and Kausche supporters was polarizing.
Hard liberals felt blood boiling in some areas, especially during the welfare discussion. Shouting out "what about the poor people?" was one of the few moments where a Democrat was alone in their outburst. Other than that, they remained a united front, clapping through Kausche's statements, and scoffing during Stewart's.