There’s much to be debated in the Kentucky Senate race between incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellAACR’s march on Washington Poll: Dems have enthusiasm edge for 2018 The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE and his Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin. What is apparently not up for debate is McConnell’s refusal to debate him.
This is a failure of leadership by McConnell and points to a level of hubris in elected officials in and outside Washington, D.C. This also sends a bad signal across the country to other candidates and voters.
Just as the residents of Kentucky, as well as voters across America, have a right to choose their elected officials, they have a right to hear from those who wish to serve as elected officials.
I have interviewed Bevin twice, and he has stated for the record that he will debate McConnell on or off the air in any forum. I have sent two requests to McConnell’s campaign office, the first more than a month ago, and await reply.
Sure, both Bevin and McConnell have taken positions on the issues, from immigration, the economy and jobs and foreign policy to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and more. Bevin has gone on the record on these issues on radio, television and in print. But so far, all we have from McConnell are statements he’s made during Senate floor speeches and some sound bites and platitudes during the occasional campaign stop. When was the last time McConnell actually engaged the people of Kentucky in a true dialogue?
Now, we cannot ignore the harsh reality of politics: It is a numbers game, and for the national Republican Party, taking more seats while maintaining current Senate numbers is important. The winner of the Kentucky primary on May 20 must be capable of mounting a strong campaign to defeat the likely Democratic candidate, Alison Lundergan Grimes. It is an uphill battle for Bevin, to be sure, and there is the question of support from McConnell supporters should the Senate leader lose the primary.
That is why it’s so important voters be able to see both candidates engage in open and honest debate, so they can hear each candidate’s stance on the issues that matter to them, so that they can make their best possible decision when they mark their ballots.
Part of the problem in American politics is that, due to some citizens’ inaction by not voting, incumbents at all levels do not feel obligated to debate their ideas in the public forum. The growing political tragedy is that smaller numbers of voters are holding their elected officials accountable. Deliberately or by effect, the lack of open debate, once a hallmark of American politics, has resulted in political ignorance. In significant numbers, Americans vote in libraries but don’t take the time to arrive early and read an op-ed in the free newspapers or online. If we do not do our homework and if we do not demand more of candidates and of our elected officials, then what right have we to complain when they do not demonstrate willingness to be accountable to us?
Bevin stated on my SiriusXM Patriot radio show last Thursday that he’s running because there is need for a change in Washington, D.C. He is a businessman with an impressive background and, unlike a Christine O’Donnell 2010 candidacy in Delaware, has a significant amount of substance. A Bevin win would send a message to the Beltway, and to incumbents at all levels: we demand better.
It’s ultimately up to us, the voter, to change the game.
Webb is host of “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM Patriot 125, a Fox News contributor and has appeared frequently on television as a commentator. Webb co-founded TeaParty365 in New York City, and is a spokesman for the National Tea Party Federation. His column will appear twice a month in The Hill.