EDITORIAL: No debates hurt Michigan voters



It turns out Democrats and Republicans can't even come together to figure out a place and time to disagree with each other.

At least that's the case with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Republican challenger Pete Hoekstra.

In a huge disservice to Michigan voters, Stabenow and Hoekstra have announced they will not debate each other before the Nov. 6 election, because they cannot decide on how many debates to have and where to have them. Stabenow was calling for two debates at the Detroit Economic Club and Grand Valley State University, the two traditional locations for Senate debates, while Hoekstra wanted six debates, all televised on network TV.

In yet another example of the increasingly partisan political world we live in, any thought of compromise was thrown out the window, and finger-pointing ensued. Before, debates were considered commonplace, a chance for voters to get a first-hand account of where the candidates stood on issues and the differences that set them apart.

It is one thing to prepare a statement or a commercial but it's quite another to debate head-to-head. It is only in that vulnerable situation that we can see how well a candidate can think on his or her feet. This race needs a moderator like the one a debate could have provided, but it seems Hoekstra is hoping to instill shock-and-awe in undecided voters, while Stabenow is unable to part from old habits.

Now, voters are left in the dust, having to rely on campaign messages and TV commercials hand-craftily spun to fit each candidates platform.

Hoekstra looks particularly bad here. The idea of having six debates was ridiculous and doomed to fail from the beginning. Now, Hoekstra's best chance at re-introducing himself to Michigan voters as a plausible alternative to Stabenow is gone. His refusal to compromise on debate times and locations might have sealed his fate as the loser in the Senate race, one that some considered he had a serious bid for prior to his infamous race-baiting Super Bowl commercial.

With challenger Hoekstra trailing Stabenow by double digits in the polls, a series of debates can only help him. And while Stabenow declined Hoekstra's call for six debates, a smart campaign move on her part, the real losers in this sad case of gridlock are Michigan voters.

We hope that both campaigns can come together soon and agree on at least one debate prior to election day. While both candidates might not be able to come together on the number of debates, they should be able to agree on the necessity of them to our democracy.


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