The “town hall” format for televised debates and other media appearances ostensibly originates from the Norman Rockwell ideal of civic participation, in which a lone engaged citizen boldly stands up to question a political figure. That’s all well and good. But in practice, they became commonplace in presidential politics in 1992, the first presidential election year after the Cold War ended, when the clearing of the nuclear Sword of Damocles from over our collective heads liberated our politics to become unserious. Which is why the first of these town hall “debates,” between George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross
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