Rand Paul Won’t Debate Charles Booker — And That Sets A Bad Precedent

Down the home stretch of this election cycle, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is likely going to continue to rely on his campaign’s robotic, effective and glacial plan: use his large monetary lead to continue to carefully market, brand and sometimes scare the populace across the state of Kentucky. It will be the opposite of grassroots. It will be mostly boring and controlled. There will be no big splashes. No new ideas. There will most likely be subtly-sinister, slyly-worded, somewhat-nonsensical commercials that play on basic human fears. He’ll give a few advantageous soundbites to cameras, attacking from a distance.   

It will be a safe and calculated campaign.

And there will almost certainly be no debate between him and his opponent, Democratic candidate Charles Booker. 

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, KET — the state’s PBS affiliate — offered both candidates the opportunity for a forum appearance on Oct. 3. Booker’s team told LEO that they accepted, but also said they were informed that Paul has declined to appear.

On Sept. 24, Booker wrote on Twitter: “Yesterday, we learned that Rand Paul declined a debate with me. He doesn’t want to face the people of Kentucky, and he is terrified to face me. Pitiful.”

Two days before, WNKY 40 out of Bowling Green asked Paul about the possibility of a debate with Booker, during which he took a quick shot at his opponent before being much more ambiguous about the idea of sharing a stage with him. 

“It’s alarming his advocacy for defunding the police,” Paul told WNKY. “I think defunding the police would be a terrible idea and very dangerous to our community. We’re still thinking about the debate and haven’t made up our mind.”

For most of the summer, Booker has been calling for a debate, and Paul has been seemingly dodging it.

While there is still time for it to happen — Election Day is Nov. 8 — I would be pretty surprised to see the two politicians share a stage at this point.

Hopefully I’m wrong.

Either way, I’ve got a quick pitch to stop making debate season a convoluted mess where we keep wondering if these exchanges are going to happen until it’s too late: National and state-wide candidates leading in the polls should be required to step onstage in a forum with their opponents at least one time during the general election cycle.

If they refuse, a heavy fine should follow. The candidates who decline would not only get hit in the pocketbook, they would also attract some negative press, and it would be completely clear who decided against transparency on current issues.  

It’s not perfect — the majority of voters probably don’t care — but if we make it harder for the deep-pocketed candidates to avoid an exchange of ideas of how to make our state or nation better, then the people win. 

We deserve better from our politicians.

Using buzzwords and scattered attacks isn’t enough. 

We need longform answers to important questions. •

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