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Thursday, Feb. 29
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

No room for debate

In a representative democracy it’s important that our representatives engage with the voting populace.

Without engagement, from both the politicians and the voters, the representative part of “representative democracy” is little more than a formality.

Part of this engagement consists of debates and public forums where voters can compare candidates side-by-side.

On Sept. 28, IU played host to an open forum debate for candidates for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District. Democratic nominee Bill Bailey and Libertarian nominee Mike Frey were present.

Republican incumbent Rep. Todd Young was invited but was not present at the debate, which was on a day in which the House of Representatives was not in session.

A little more than a week later, on Oct. 6, Rep. Young found time in his busy schedule to attend a College Republicans meeting at IU.

Now, I’m not turning this into a partisan issue. This isn’t an issue of Republicans avoiding debates. It’s an issue of members of both parties, generally incumbents, refusing to debate challengers in public settings.

It seems that many incumbents are more concerned with courting voters who they know support them than actually facing tough questions or ?challengers.

It’s easier for them to relax and let their name recognition do the work for them.

In an article by the Washington Post, it was revealed that many incumbents in this election cycle are either refusing to debate entirely or putting bizarre restrictions on how debates can be held.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., has refused to schedule a debate with his opponent, Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel. Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, has stated that he refuses to debate his opponent, Democrat Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., has agreed to debate his opponent, Republican Neel Kashkari, just once, but demanded that it be aired the same time as the first NFL game of the season.

In the Federalist Papers, which contributed to the ratification debates surrounding the U.S. Constitution, it’s stated “As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people ... (it) should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.”

While political analysts argue that the use of debates forces incumbents, who otherwise may be safe in their bid for reelection, to give their challengers a platform for media exposure, that’s not the point.

Public service should serve as just that – service to your country and community as you seek to make, enforce or interpret laws on behalf of the citizens of this nation.

It should be about public officials, from all parties, all levels of government and all offices, seeking to truly engage with and represent their constituents.

Otherwise, what is our democracy other than selective representation and cowardly candidacy?

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