Debating on Television: Then and Now

Kennedy and Nixon squared off in the first televised presidential debate 50 years ago and politics have never been the same

On September 26, 1960, presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy stood before cameras for the first-ever televised presidential debate. (Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images)

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Today the Liberal Democrats share power with the Conservatives, and Clegg is deputy prime minister—an outcome few could have imagined before the debates. In Britain as in America, televised debates promise to exert a potent influence over political life, permanently changing the campaign landscape. For all their riskiness and high drama, they play a crucial role now and are doubtless here to stay.


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