Goose, Gander, No Debate Just Pander
By Marisa DeFranco
It’s bad enough that political history repeats itself. But when it sings the same lyrics to the same tune, it is deadly to our democracy.
Dateline, Jan. 30, 2012. I sent out a press release titled, “U.S. Senate candidate Marisa DeFranco calls on Professor Warren to stop ducking debates and forums.”
“The voters of the commonwealth deserve the opportunity to see candidates debate the serious issues. Candidate Marisa DeFranco calls for more debates, and encourages her primary opponent, Elizabeth Warren, to stop skipping forums that have occurred across the commonwealth.”
″‘When is the next debate?’ Lately, that is the first question people ask me.”
“Public debate is a critical part of the electoral process. Debates provide voters with the opportunity to see their potential nominees in an unscripted setting. They also require candidates to address issues beyond sound bites and talking points. And they give voters a chance to see how well candidates perform under pressure.”
Flash forward to the U.S. Senate Republican primary. The two male candidates in the race are indistinguishable from Warren when it comes to debating their competition. Ducking debates, displaying their utter contempt for open debate and their disdain for voters.
It’s three weeks before election day. The three candidates have appeared in only one debate together despite invitations to several venues. I invited them to my show “Weekend Live with Marisa DeFranco” on WBZ-AM/iHeartRadio. A show that airs on Sunday night, 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. -- a time slot not usually heavily laden with picnic meet and greets, campaign stops, or fundraisers. What could be the excuse for dodging?
Here are the facts:
* On July 22, 2018, I invited all three candidates, Geoff Diehl, John Kingston, and Beth Lindstrom, to a candidates’ debate on August 12, 2018. Lindstrom’s campaign accepted promptly. Diehl’s campaign did not respond.
* On Aug. 9, 2018, I sent a follow up email to Diehl’s campaign. That same day, his scheduler informed me for the first time that I had to run the request through another person. Obvious game-playing tactic. They used the “that date is not available and has not been available” card. Weak. If that date weren’t available, why did it take them two and half weeks to say so? But I guess at least they responded.
The prize for total arrogance goes to John Kingston who never responded to my request. Failure to respond is disrespectful. But given that I am the only woman radio talk show host in prime time in Boston, it’s also just dumb. Sexist is not a good color on a Republican man trying to defeat the woman senator who will bash him over the head with the “woman card.”
I see these candidates pandering, claiming to “lead”, and citing their background of “hard work” and their “devotion to giving and service” Yet they can’t be bothered to give their time to the voters or do the work of engaging in debate.
Look, here’s the real deal: Candidates make themselves available when they want something. I gave three weeks’ lead time. That is a lonnnnng time in politics, and even longer in radio. Beth Lindstrom showed up. The guys didn’t. If they can’t respect the voters enough to give them debates, how can voters take them seriously?
Are they afraid of competition? No matter the reason, it doesn’t bode well for any future oasis of open and vigorous primaries or generals in the Massachusetts desert where Senate seats are occupied for decades by a single party.
Their failure to debate in the primary will be the gift that keeps on giving to Elizabeth Warren. If Diehl or Kingston win the primary and they call for multiple debates, the queen of ducking debates will simply retort, “You didn’t, why should I. Good for the goose, good for the gander.”
Marisa DeFranco is an immigration attorney, Boston radio talk show host, and a freelance opinion writer.