On Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi publicly promoted the idea of having no debates for the 2020 presidential election.
While addressing the media at a news conference, Speaker Pelosi said she believes that if former Vice President Joe Biden attends the debates it would "belittle" the forum and lead to President Trump engaging in "skullduggery." She also stated it would “legitimize a conversation” with President Trump.
Once Speaker Pelosi dismounts from her political high horse, maybe she will remember that throughout her 44 years in politics, our country has been able to move policies and ideas forward when Republicans and Democrats converse and work together with bipartisan support. As it stands today, that concept largely seems to be a thing of the past. Our nation is more divided than at any time in recent history. We have seen how that’s impacted society, and it’s practically palpable. Political partisanship is at a fever pitch. There’s a culture war taking place. Ordinary people feel as if they must choose a side or risk being an outcast. People have lost jobs, families have had fights, and people have been attacked- all based on which politicians they support. Meanwhile, both sides genuinely believe they are right, moral, and just.
Statements like Speaker Pelosi’s are dangerous and only add to that divide. It is even more concerning coming from one of the highest-ranking elected officials in our country. If Speaker Pelosi doesn’t believe in one of the most basic traditions of American politics, perhaps she should consider resigning.
Sometimes it is easy to lose perspective of history, so let’s revisit that. The Great Compromise of 1787, which created a dual system of representation in Congress, would not have happened without bipartisanship. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination and ended segregation, would not have happened without bipartisanship. The first man on the moon would not have happened without a bipartisanship effort 11 years earlier to make advancements in technology. The truth is, both parties have a fundamental disagreement on the issues, but that shouldn’t prevent Republicans and Democrats from being the adults in the room and accomplishing important things by working together. However, our politicians can’t do that if they refuse to even have a conversation. When we can’t have a conversation on the issues, how are voters supposed to decide who the best candidate is?
It is fair to question why Speaker Pelosi is adamant that having a debate with President Trump is not a good idea for Joe Biden. Is she worried it will not help his chances of being elected, and why would that be? Is she concerned about him debating Trump amid allegations of Biden’s declining cognitive ability, or does she believe the American people do not deserve to have a fair election process where ideas are presented before them in a debate format?
What we have seen is a 77-year-old man in Joe Biden, who appears to have (at the very least) lost a few steps. During the campaign, we’ve seen him confuse the elected office he’s running for, mistake his wife for his sister, confuse the location and state he’s speaking from, make outright racist remarks, and just generally make factually inaccurate statements, where he is completely confused. It’s not hard to believe this could be the real reason why Speaker Pelosi doesn’t want him to debate President Trump.
Admittedly, the current debate format leaves a lot to be desired, as it often favors witty one-liners over policy and substance. When the right time comes, our leaders can discuss changing the debate format going forward to something that makes more sense. However, until we do that, this is what we have, and this is what we as Americans expect from our presidential candidates.
We have a long history of nationally televised presidential debates between both candidates, but it was not always that way. It was a senatorial debate by Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858 which later influenced the idea of debates in presidential elections. The Republican primary debate was broadcast on the radio in 1948. The first nationally televised debate in 1956 featured two surrogates instead of the candidates themselves. Then in 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy debated incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon on national television, and the idea gained in popularity from there. So, why should we make an exception for Joe Biden?
If Speaker Pelosi is worried for the first time in our history about campaign “skullduggery,” then I cannot help but wonder how she felt about the Obama Administration spying on an opposing political party based on bad intelligence? How about Joe Kennedy allegedly paying a man with the same name as John F. Kennedy’s Democratic primary opponent to confuse voters? What about Lyndon Baines Johnson overcoming a 20,000 vote deficit in a 1948 senate race due to alleged vote manufacturing? My point is not to highlight these examples, it is to highlight the history that “skullduggery” in both parties is to politics as peanut butter is to jelly. It is not a valid reason to forgo debating.
Speaker Pelosi believes a debate with President Trump would legitimize the conversation, and she does not want that to happen. Are we supposed to believe that Joe Biden is so prestigious that by just engaging the president in conversation it is a special honor, or adds some level of meaning or credibility that was not there already? President Trump is already having a conversation with the American people, the debates are Joe Biden’s opportunity to join that conversation and make his case for the presidency. He is not above campaigning, debating, or engaging with the American public – no one is.
While Speaker Pelosi believes it would “belittle” the forum if Joe Biden debated President Trump, it would actually belittle voter expectations, American history, and the forum itself if no debates took place at all.
Brad Shepard is a contributor to UncoverDC, and an Army National Guard veteran.
Brad’s breaking news stories have been credited by Fox Business, The Washington Post, New York Daily News, New York Post, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Chicago Tribune, Deadspin, Yahoo Sports, Forbes, Golf Digest, Bleacher Report, Sporting News, The Sun, NESN, Breitbart, Zero Hedge, and ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, among many others.
He is also the host of the “Low Blows MMA” podcast, which covers the hard-hitting world of mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @TheBradShepard