Debates are an important part of the political process, wherein candidates stand and face the public to explain their views on policies and issues. While not always a regular occurrence, they have been expected for the past half century.

The first U.S. debate was for a House seat in 1788 between James Madison and James Monroe. In 1858, Stephen Douglas, a Democrat, was fighting to keep his Senate seat in Illinois when he faced future president Abraham Lincoln, a former Whig who was running as a Republican. The Lincoln-Douglas debates drew a lot of attention, and people of the time traveled by rail, foot, riverboat, and wagon to witness the two politicians and hear their views on the issues of the day.

Debates between candidates continued, but it wasn’t until 1960 that two presidential candidates running against each other from different parties – Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Vice President Richard Nixon – debated four times. Then, in 1976, the public saw what was considered to be the first of the modern presidential campaigns while watching three debates between President Gerald Ford and Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter.

Four years later, Republican nominee Ronald Reagan and independent John Anderson were invited to debate President Carter, but the president’s team declined, feeling Anderson should not be invited. Reagan and Anderson debated each other without the president, causing Reagan’s numbers and following to take a huge upward swing. Carter finally agreed to debate Reagan on Oct. 28, just one week before the election. The president appeared stiff, while Reagan, a professional actor who was comfortable in front of a camera and an audience, appeared relaxed and reassuring.

Debates have continued from that time and are good for the public. This year, with COVID-19, many Democrats are saying former Vice President Joe Biden should not debate President Donald Trump. That is a huge mistake and is not good for the American people.

It is no secret that Biden seems to be in an uncomfortable and awkward position, even in the few news conferences he holds. There have been many gaffes, such as not structuring sentences properly, forgetting details and more.

The Biden campaign says those are falsehoods created by the Trump campaign, and it is no secret the current occupant of the White House often overexaggerates himself. However, to many swing voters and those who are truly looking at who the best candidate of the two would be to lead our nation, many are coming to the conclusion that Biden is not physically or mentally healthy enough to meet the demands of the presidency.

Democrats do not want to admit it and they get angry when it is mentioned, but the fact is, Biden looks weak and his campaign seems scared. To many, it looks as though his team is trying to keep him out of sight until after the election, hoping he will win on the extreme hatred of Trump by many voters.

If Democrats truly think Biden would be a better leader for America, they need to come out and face the public, face the tough questions and give real answers and present insightful policies to the American people. Unfortunately, we have gone beyond the gentleman’s disagreement era in sharing ideas and views. In this time of social media, political discussions have become cyberspace brawls and slugfests.

The Biden team needs to forget facing Trump. Instead, it needs to focus on facing the American people, who have a right to hear from someone hoping to lead them, and that means not dodging the debates.

Randy Gibson is the CEO of RDG Communications Group, LLC, and the former director of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the Texas State Rifle Association.

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