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Published October 14 2012

Political party: Here are our tips on throwing a great debate viewing

Politics can sure get us riled up.

Many of us love discussing and debating political issues just as much as we love watching others do it. (The first presidential debate was the most watched and tweeted about political event of the year.)

Instead of watching the next two presidential debates by yourself, why not watch it with your friends and make a party out of it?

A presidential debate viewing party is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the American political system and engage in a thoughtful exchange of ideas, and maybe have a little fun while doing so.

Eats

Like at any other party, the food you offer at your presidential debate viewing party is important to consider.

The sky’s the limit on this one, as you can go the route of using the political parties or an individual candidate as themes.

Give the following ideas a shot (but remember to always, always keep things fair and balanced):

Deep-dish pizza: This tasty and filling idea is a throwback to President Barack Obama’s Chicago roots.

Healthy eats: It’s best not to let down Michelle Obama with the food offered at your party. Meet the first lady’s nutrition guidelines with some healthy options – like couscous, quinoa or spinach – for your guests.

Clam chowder: Sure, Republican candidate Mitt Romney is originally from Detroit, but his state of governorship (Massachusetts) offers a more unique food option that’s sure to set your party apart.

Pre-made options: If the above options require too much time, go for some pre-made items instead.

Go through a bag of M&Ms, for example, and take out all the blue and red ones. Be like our country’s divisive political atmosphere and set them in separate bowls (and see which ones disappear the quickest), or go for unity and mix them together.

Alternatively, head to Quality Bakery at 2532 South University Drive in Fargo, where they offer cookies with both Obama and Romney’s faces on them (pictured above).

So far, at least, the Romney cookies seem to be far outselling the Obama cookies, as evidenced by a whiteboard where customers can tally the cookies they purchase.

Drinks

It’s certainly OK if you want to offer alcoholic beverages at your party, but just remember Romney himself abstains from drink. Offer non-alcoholic options as well.

While you might be tempted to provide a patriotic beer that most people enjoy, like Sam Adams, be aware that in doing so you might be giving away your own political preference.

A recent survey by the National Journal took a look at beer choices and political affiliation, and found that there’s some definite correlation.

Corona, Heineken and Budweiser, for example, were most common among Democrats, while Miller Lite, Sam Adams and Leinenkugel were favorites of Republicans.

Keep that in mind when deciding what beverage to offer.

You could also take it a step further and play the ever-popular debate drinking game. Along with your friends, establish a list of words or phrases that are likely to come up during the debate. When a candidate says that word or phrase, take a drink.

The list of words will have to change based on the topic of the debate. For Tuesday, which includes both foreign and domestic policy, any of the following words could work: Libya, Iran, Syria, Arab Spring, taxes, small business, the 47 percent, and on and on.

Because candidates often return to the same word or phrase over and over and over again (it’s politics, after all), you may find yourself with ample opportunities to drink based on whatever words you pick. So remember, drink in moderation, and don’t drink and drive.

Defusing tension

Inevitably, conflicting viewpoints could lead to tension – especially if alcohol is involved.

In such a situation, Keith Bistodeau, director of NDSU’s forensics team (a combination of speech and debate), encourages people to not let their own viewpoints limit their understanding of an issue.

“As long as you find some validity and be open to different opinions, it allows for an educational and functioning discussion,” Bistodeau says.

If a heated argument does break out at your party, it’s imperative for you, as a host, to not let the bickering and heated tempers ruin the party by making everyone else uncomfortable.

If you need to moderate such an argument, Bistodeau says it’s your job to make sure that everyone involved gets a chance to speak and communicate their views.

“Don’t impose your views on someone else, because that’s limiting what they can learn and what you can learn,” he adds. “It affects everyone else in the room as well.”


Haven’t thrown a debate party yet?

Don’t fret, you have two chances left before the election. Both debates are scheduled for 8-9:30 p.m.:

Tuesday night: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama debate foreign and domestic policy at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Candy Crowley of CNN is the moderator of the town-hall-style debate.

Oct. 22: The two candidates again debate foreign policy at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Bob Schieffer of CBS’ “Face the Nation” moderates.

What does your beer say about your political preference?

Online: National Journal’s study on beer and political preference: http://tinyurl.com/8bakenf.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535