No debate about it, forums needed

A recent editorial by the Sandusky Register:

It may be just a first step to restoring confidence in our election process, but we were heartened that U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and his opponent, J.D. Vance, agreed to two debates and showed up for both of them. The results in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race is one of just a few contests that will have an enormous impact on the nation’s future.

It’s been a difficult election year, difficult enough to cause growing concerns among many that our election process is being poisoned by hyperbolic charges and counter-charges, gimmicks and abuse of power. The outside, dark money that pours into the state, funding short-message talking points broadcast across the airwaves is an abuse of voters’ ears.

If ever there was an industry in need of regulation it’s campaign financing — how money gets spent during elections and what it buys as far as influence and power. Without effective regulation — starting with a court ruling that would reverse the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision that triggered this dark money era — we will continue being a nation lost in lies and misleading messaging.

But if, or when, the U.S. Supreme Court ever intervenes and fixes what it broke with Citizens United is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, voters must maneuver through this muddled mix of false claims repeated ad nauseam with the clear intention to influence in a way that more resembles brainwashing than authentic dialogue. It’s disgraceful, and there’s plenty of blame to stretch from one end of the political spectrum to the other.

We’re disappointed Gov. Mike DeWine opted out of any debate, in what might be his last campaign. His opponent was ready, accommodating for forums proposed by the nonpartisan Ohio Debate Commission as well as local newspapers, including this one. DeWine teased out negotiations but finally, disappointingly, bowed out.

The value of debates was clearly shown in the two U.S. Senate forums between Ryan and Vance. These engagements very well might be the best moments in a more than a yearlong campaign that had so many lows and stoked the fears for the stability of our democracy.

We hope the Ohio Supreme Court does someday fix the dark money problem. But more debates in statewide races, and local races, right now, will serve the nation. It should remain an expectation for voters.

— Sandusky Register, October 20, 2022