Opinion | We lost the debate

Conservative or liberal, left or right, one thing’s for sure — the display that occurred during last week’s presidential and Senatorial debates left everyone sore.



From left, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, stand on stage following the conclusion of the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland on September 29, 2020.

Peyton Downing, Opinions Editor

Like many of my fellow politically minded citizens this past week, I watched the debates relevant to Iowa’s electoral choices this November. And, like many of my politically minded citizens, I was abhorred to see what happened.

Let’s start off with the presidential debate, in which our current incumbent president berated his opponent by claiming his son was dishonorably discharged for cocaine use, someone who shouldn’t use the word “smart,” and that Biden was running to install socialized health care.

This was absurd. Blatantly false statements flying left and right, overblown claims, and personal attacks were center stage that night, not policy. The debate was such a disgrace that even other countries couldn’t help but comment on it.

“A national disgrace,” from the UK; “worrying for American democracy” from France; “never had American politics sunk so low,” from Italy, and more.

Is this what we as Americans want from our politics? To be a glorified circus?

And the fact that it’s on the national stage is no excuse — because we do just the same here at the state level too.

The Senatorial debate between Joni Ernst and Theresa Greenfield was also disappointing.

Ernst consistently made false claims about Greenfield’s policy positions, not even bothering to accurately quote her opposition.

Characterizing her opposition as a woke, out-of-touch progressive, Ernst claimed that Greenfield called every police officer a racist — a claim which Greenfield had to debunk by pointing out that critiquing systemic racism is not the same as calling individuals racist.

Ernst claimed Greenfield was in support of Medicare For All — something Greenfield has said she is not in support of several times.

But Greenfield is not an innocent victim either. She pivoted talking points multiple times to simply repeat the statement that Ernst had turned her back on Iowans in favor of Washington donors.

The both of them also devolved into arguing so much that the moderator David Yepsen had to step in several times, at one point asking the question, “Do either of you think you’re acting like a U.S. senator? Is this the way Iowans expect their senator to act? I want to ask a question and get a response.”

I think Yepsen’s comment here gets at the heart of what’s wrong with modern political interactions at this point. We’ve become so dogmatic in our team, our narrative, that we’ve built a straw man on the other side of the fence to shout at instead of an actual discussion on the merits of policy.

Conservatives seem to think that all liberals are communists seeking to paint the White House red, and liberals seem to think that conservatives are all billionaire-funded stooges trying to get an extra five bucks before retirement.

Where’s the policy? Where’s the debate? These are less discussions on what the government should do and more so shouting matches hurling insults at the enemy to build up an image for their base to attack later.

Why can’t Ernst criticize what Greenfield’s actually proposing instead of vaguely gesturing at this grand conspiracy the Democrats have to install universal healthcare? Why can’t Greenfield point at specific policies Ernst has passed or let die that harmed her constituency?

We need to change this. Some way, somehow. Contact the campaigns, go to town halls and appearances and question them why their rhetoric is so charged against the person rather than the policy.

They may be the politicians running for office, but they’re supposed to represent us. And frankly, I’m afraid that they do.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.