The season of the Democrat debate-dodgers

If the poll and the overall mood of the nation are anything to go by, it appears the Democrats are on track to receive an emphatic drubbing in the midterms.

The Democrats have their fingerprints on most hardships Americans are suffering from, such as inflation, sky-high gas prices, the crime wave, the fentanyl crisis, the influx of illegal aliens, and so much more.

Consequently, several high-profile Democrats have refused to participate in debates against their GOP challengers.

U.S. senator Maggie Hassan declined to debate Republican challenger Don Bolduc for the New Hampshire Senate seat.  Hassan's campaign revealed that the incumbent would participate only if it were "a stand-alone forum, not a debate."  Hassan has also insisted that Bolduc not be present.

The next dodger is from Arizona.

Democrat gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs declined to debate Republican Kari Lake.  Her excuse was that debating a conspiracy theorist like Kari Lake "would only lead to constant interruptions, pointless distractions, and childish name-calling."

Lake excoriated Hobbs for her dogging and for Hobbs's record of racism, most recently seen on CNN.

The next dodgers are from Pennsylvania.

Democratic attorney general Josh Shapiro is running against GOP state senator Doug Mastriano for governor.  Mastriano proposed that both he and Shapiro be allowed to pick moderators of choice and field questions from both during an October debate.  Shapiro refused to engage in any debate.

There also are dodgers who have reluctantly agreed to be part of debates, perhaps seeing their declining poll numbers.

Senate candidate John Fetterman repeatedly declined to debate his GOP rival, Dr. Mehmet Oz, which raised concerns about Fetterman's health.  Fetterman recently agreed to participate in a single debate on October 25.  It remains to be seen if Fetterman fulfills his commitment.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had declined to debate her GOP challenger, Tiffany Smiley, on multiple occasions.  However, she consented to a single debate recently.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) only recently agreed to engage in a single debate with his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, which occurred a few days ago.

After dodging myriad debate challenges, Democrat attorney general candidate Andrea Campbell agreed to debate her Republican opponent, Jay McMahon, for the Massachusetts A.G. office on Oct. 20.

Also in Massachusetts, Democrat state auditor nominee state Sen. Diana DiZoglio agreed to debate her Republican challenger, Anthony Amor, only if the third-party candidates are allowed to participate.  This was an innovative way to dodge debates.  However, she agreed to a debate recently, which occurred a few days back.

Some Democrats are reluctant to debate even the members of their own party.  In Massachusetts again, A.G. Maura Healey repeatedly sidestepped debate requests from gubernatorial primary opponent state senator Sonia Chang-Díaz.  In the end, she agreed to participate in two primary debates.

So are these debates really important?

This merits a look back at the milestones of political debating history.

The Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate held in 1960 revealed something about audiences in general.  Those who heard that debate on the radio thought Nixon won, while 70 million who watched it on TV thought Kennedy won. 

Clearly, the viewers of the televised debate were focused on body language and on-screen charisma.

Nixon had a tendency to perspire under the bright television lights, had a five o'clock shadow, and was awkward and uncomfortable on camera.  Kennedy was the opposite: he had movie star charisma and was relaxed before the camera, like a performer.

Debates hence could be very unfair because the audiences were either knowingly or unknowingly distracted by the physical appearance of the candidates and ended up ignoring the content of their utterances.

During the vice presidential debate in 1988, between GOP candidate Sen. Dan Quayle and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, the former happened to mention President John F. Kennedy during his remarks.  Bentsen seized the opportunity to insult Quayle: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy.  I knew Jack Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.  Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."  Quayle didn't have much of a comeback to that.

It was unfair to adjudicate a 90-minute debate on a one-minute insult, but that is exactly what the Democrats and their media operatives attempted to do.  They called it the defining moment not just of the debate, but also of the race.

The public didn't think so.  Bush and Quayle defeated Dukakis and Bentsen by a comfortable 8% of the popular vote.  Dukakis and Bentsen won just ten states.  

However, to this day, the "you're no Jack Kennedy" moment is referred to when "pundits" are on TV panels to discuss debates.

The moment may have tarnished Quayle's legacy permanently.

So if it is about physical appearance and amateur theatrics, are debates really worth being part of?


We are living in times where campaign events, speeches, and perhaps some TV interviews are meticulously planned and staged.  Even mundane acts such as handshakes are vetted by consultants and pollsters.  Even the race of an individual sitting in the front row or standing behind a candidate is decided in advance.

This stage management is not restricted to campaign events.  Even the January 6 hearings were staged by hiring a TV producer.

Every syllable in a speech is examined with a fine-tooth comb.  A candidate reads off a teleprompter and performs for a camera like an actor playing a part in a stage play.

Teleprompters aren't always a guarantee that matters will proceed smoothly.

Back to the debates.

Live debates are the only forums where the voters have an opportunity to see their potential representatives in relatively high-pressure and unscripted situations.  The assumption made here is that questions are not known in advance by any of the participants and there are no earpieces.

On occasion, the person behind the persona crafted by campaign strategists is exposed.

In recent times, debates have played a significant role in electoral contests.

Back in 2016, Donald Trump used the debates effectively, not only to triumph over his GOP opponents during the primaries, but also to establish himself as a candidate who is not beholden to the Washington Establishment and who will drain the swamp.

Following the leak of the Access Hollywood tape, all Democrats, many Republicans, and most of the media claimed it was the end of Trump's candidacy.  Some even urged him to drop out of the race. 

Trump entered the second debate like a man on a mission.  Within minutes, he put his opponent, Hillary Clinton, on the defensive, and by the end of the debate, he had shut down all the naysayers, including even his worst critics.  Hillary, despite her experience and reputation for being bright, lost the debate despite entering it with a perceived advantage.

The debates may not always reveal too much, but they still are a worthy exercise.

As for the debate-dodgers:

Both Kari Lake and Doug Mastriano must make debate-dodgers one of the items to focus on as the midterm date approaches.  Perhaps release adverts that convey the message: "If they cannot stand up to me in a debate, how can they stand up for you, the citizen?"  They can even quote Obama, who said, "The only people who don't want to disclose the truth are the people with something to hide."

Hopefully, the voters will reject these cowardly dodgers. 

Image: Screen shot from CNN video via YouTube.

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