FROM THE PUBLISHER ’ S DESK
A debate about debates
The University of Guam ’ s Great Debate is the Super Bowl of Guam politics — a primetime pre-election event that typically sees hundreds of political supporters flocking to the UOG Calvo Fieldhouse . It makes people sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn on their laps and their attention glued to the TV screen . It gets sponsors and advertisers excited about their products thrust into the limelight throughout the duration of the candidates ' back and forth .
But the Great Debate is rarer than the annual Super Bowl ; it takes place only every four years marking the gubernatorial race . Not this year though .
UOG has canceled the Great Debate slated for Nov . 3 , which would have been the 8th since it was launched by the School of Business and Public Administration in 1994 . This is the first time it was ever canceled .
The event ’ s cancelation was prompted by the Democratic team ’ s decision " not to share the stage ” with their Republican opponents , giving the ultimate tit for tat .
Former Gov . Felix Camacho and his running mate , Sen . Tony Ada , previously turned down invitations to participate in the forums and debates organized by the Guam media , the Guam Women ' s Chamber of Commerce and the University of Guam Student Organization . Gov . Lou Leon-Guerrero and her running mate , Lt . Gov . Josh Tenorio , returned the favor by skipping the Guam Association of Realtors ' virtual town hall meeting for gubernatorial candidates , leaving the screen all to the Republican team .
" Had Felix Camacho agreed to debate fairly in front of women , the free press ,
Skirting debates is usually a decision made behind the scene by the candidates ’ political handlers , who see such a format as an unbridled platform as opposed to carefully drafted press releases and meticulously tailored political ads .
and CHamoru language students , Lou and Josh would have been at all debates ," said Rory Respicio , spokesperson for the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio campaign .
Both camps have since traded press statements and social media posts , assailing each other and resenting mutual rejections . Off stage , the two gubernatorial teams debated about debates .
The debate-skipping trend started before the primary when Delegate Mike San Nicolas , who was then running for the Democratic nomination against Leon Guerrero , snubbed the Guam media forum , saying he wasn ’ t happy with one of the media outlets sponsoring the event .
But the emerging aversion to the time-honored tradition of debate is not exclusive to Guam . According to the political website FiveThirtyEight , 58 percent of races for the U . S . Senate this year had no debates . " Numerous candidates for governor and other offices have decided that participating in debates is not in their own best interest ,” the website said .
Skirting debates is usually a decision made behind the scene by the candidates ’ political handlers , who see such a format as an unbridled platform as opposed to carefully drafted press releases and meticulously tailored political ads . And there ' s the digital town square called “ social media ” that gives politicians direct access to voters .
Yet , Guamanians can ’ t resist the temptation to repeat clichés and lecture candidates about what they presumably know already : public debates are a benchmark of democracy in action . They allow us to compare and contrast candidates , their characters , their responses to pressure and their takes on issues .
During a debate , a candidate ’ s policy position and campaign promises become part of the public record and a point of reference to which the winning candidate can be held accountable .
For those who have already made up their mind , debates provide the stage to cheer for the candidate they support and heckle the other camp . For the undecided , a public debate can lead to an informed voting decision . Clichés are clichés for a reason .
But UOG ’ s Great Debate is not exactly for the jaded .
It targets new voters — which makes it crucial — specifically the students who may not be keeping abreast of current events . They are political virgins , eager to absorb whatever candidates may have to say , ready to pick their team and be part of the cheering or jeering squads .
The next Great Debate will take place in 2026 , assuming that debates have not completely lost their relevance to the political process .
Otherwise , we can just wait for the real Super Bowl or pick trending series on Netflix .
Publisher / Editor-in-Chief Mar-Vic Cagurangan publisher @ pacificislandtimes . com
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