Did you tune in to Saturday's Senate debate between Republican incumbent Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield?
The debate brought snark and it brought sarcastic rebuttal. There were some interruptions on both sides and the mood was quite tense toward the end as candidates focused their attacks against one another.
But yet, in the shadows of the worst debate in modern history between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, it was a stark, almost welcome, contrast.
The race between Ernst and Greenfield has been pretty charged — anyone who has watched television or a YouTube video recently knows this much. It's an important race for the future party-tilt of the U.S. Senate, with money pouring in from around the country.
The Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday has Greenfield up by 5 points. Prior to the debate, Hart Research Associates had the race even and Data for Progress had Greenfield by a point or two.
The race is neck and neck. Attack ads have only heated up.
Yet, the two got on stage and mostly behaved like decent adults. They traded policy ideas and, sure, the occasional jab.
Ernst, upon demand by Greenfield, said she apologizes to health care workers offended by her earlier comments expressing skepticism in the accuracy of the COVID-19 death reporting by the industry.
She said, "I have apologized to our health care workers, and I will apologize again tonight. I am so sorry that my words may have offended you. I know that you are tremendous workers, you are essential workers, you are providing care for our loved ones every single day."
Turning the tables, Ernst asked Greenfield if she would apologize for a 2015 economic development deal. The deal displaced small businesses in the Apple Valley Shopping Center in Windsor Heights.
Greenfield didn't apologize and said Ernst was mischaracterizing the deal. She said, "If you're referring to the Apple Valley development project, it was an economic development project and we gave every single tenant more notice than was required and we helped many of them move on to a new location. ... Senator Ernst, frankly I'm surprised. You're one of the few Republicans I've ever met who hates economic development."
(By the way, we're writing this editorial before we tune in to Wednesday's vice presidential debate between current Vice President Mike Pence, and Democratic hopeful Kamala Harris.)
Debates need to be exchanges of ideas, not political theater. Candidates are far too focused on sound bites and rehearsed attacks. It may at times make for interesting television, but we must find more moments of honest exchanges of policy ideas.
These debates, regardless of the level of office, are not supposed to be programs that spur high ratings. They're supposed to help voters make informed decisions.
Let's restore the ability to respectfully disagree with someone of the "other side." Better yet, let's stop seeing people as the "other side." We're all Americans, regardless of which circles we darken on our ballots.