The 2018 midterm election season has thus far displayed the deep ideological trenches dug out on both sides of the aisle, yet tonight’s debates at Mitchell Hall saw the candidates occasionally venture out into a bipartisan no-man’s land.
At times, Delaware Debates 2018 appeared to be a referendum on partisanship; although the candidates disagreed more often than they agreed, they each couched their rhetoric in the idea that partisanship was a barrier to political progress.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Arlett claims he does not “drink the kool-aid” of his party.
“I won’t compromise on my principles, but I can compromise on my policies,” Incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Carper said, quoting former United States Senator Ted Kennedy.
At a glance, the debate between Carper and Arlett in the latter half of the evening was far more confrontational than the relatively impersonal policy arguments between U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Republican candidate Scott Walker earlier in the evening.
During a debate on whether public officials ought to be held to account in the #MeToo era, Arlett brought up accusations against Carper which allege that the Senator was guilty of spousal abuse and involved in a taxpayer-supported “slush fund” to silence victims of sexual assault by Congressional legislators. Carper admitted to “mistakes” decades ago but maintained he treats his family well.
Arlett was not invulnerable to personal scrutiny, however. The moderator, Ralph Begleiter, pressed him on his treatment of his gay primary opponent Gene Truono, who attended the debate. Previously, Arlett had made the sexual orientation Truono, a former PayPal executive, a central point of contention.
Arlett had claimed during the primaries that the greatest contrast between himself and Truono was that “I’m married to a woman and he is not.”
Blunt Rochester, Walker, Arlett and Carper all vocalized support to pass legislation which would extend more legal protection against discrimination to LGBT students.
When Begleiter questioned Arlett, Arlett spoke at length about people of all sexualties being “children of God,” yet appeared to dodge the discrepancy between his actions and his debate rhetoric was discussed.
Mitchell Patterson and Brandon Holveck discuss Rob Arlett’s “with regard to the gays” comment and attacks against Tom Carper’s past from the Delaware Debates.
Posted by The Review on Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Additionally, Arlett denounced legislation to ban assault rifles or impose universal background checks on firearms consumers as a violation of the Second Amendment. In response, Carper inexplicably produced a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution, and told Arlett that the Second Amendment had no language prohibiting background checks.
The myriad of these minor gaffs on Arlett’s part, including a confession that he did not know any “details” about the Paris Climate Accords which he opposes, did not secure his victory in the debate over Carper.
Carper, 71, a Delaware senator for 18 years, occasionally seemed confused as he gave long answers which were seemingly unrelated to Begleiter’s questions. When asked about whether or not he supported term limits for all federal elected officials, Carper went off on a long diatribe about nominating Republican and Democratic judges in equal parts during his time as Governor.
In the House of Representatives debates, Walker appeared to be proud of running a dysfunctional campaign against Blunt Rochester.
Walker, whose campaign is currently staffed by a veritable skeleton crew of volunteers, pitched himself as a humble centrist and an outsider to Washington D.C. who does not “prostitute himself” for campaign donations.
“People see me out working, out on the streets, out driving around in 95 degree heat,” Walker said. “People like that, they like it because I’m one of you. I’m not above you, I’m one of you. My income’s $1,000 a month, I drive a $1,000 car. And yet here I am running for Congress.”
Blunt Rochester’s initial rhetoric focused on the upcoming midterms as a referendum on the Republican Party in control of the Federal Government, but her opponent was not towing the party line of the political Right.
Mitchell Patterson and Brandon Holveck provide a brief analysis of the debate between Lisa Blunt Rochester and Scott Walker.
Posted by The Review on Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Walker jumped between social liberalism to fiscal conservatism. Walker, who describes himself as a self-taught civil rights law expert, held firm against any suggestion by Blunt Rochester to pass regulations on social media, believing such proposals to be tantamount to politically motivated censorship.
Blunt Rochester said it is inappropriate for candidates and officials to use social media to shame others or push policy, as the president and other legislators have done. She offered only vague justifications for regulating such platforms, claiming that doing so would remove “bullying” and “misinformation.”
Additionally, Walker took a fiercely libertarian stance on gun rights and rejected proposals for so-called “common sense” gun legislation. Blunt Rochester pointed out that in the last election cycle, when Walker ran as a Democrat, he called for some gun safety regulations.
The legitimacy of Walker’s candidacy was brought up by Blunt Rochester, who asked how Walker, if elected, would swear to uphold the law while allegedly delinquent on tax payments and convicted of numerous code violations on properties he rented to the homeless, drug addicts and those with mental illnesses.
Gallery: Delaware Debates 2018 by Louis Mason
Despite having been disavowed by the Republican Party, Walker managed to defeat the party favorite, Lee Murphy, by two thousand votes. He presented himself at the debates as a centrist in order to curry favor with Democratic voters.
Walker agreed with Blunt Rochester, for example, that sexual assault is an endemic problem in American society which legislators ought to do more to address. He also agreed that party battles in Congress unnecessarily delayed bipartisan legislation addressing so-called “DREAMers,” the children of illegal immigrants.
Ultimately, the candidates disagreed on most subjects, but it seems as though each one sought to distance themselves from their party affiliations. In an era of hyper-partisan entrenchment, claims to independence appear to be the choice method for winning debates.
“We have a choice in 20 days, to looking to the past: partisanship, politics, career politicians, what’s wrong with Washington D.C.,” Arlett said in his closing statement. “I think we need to focus on the future.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article inaccurately quoted Blunt Rochester with respect to her positions on elected officials using social media.