To Debate or Not to Debate

This past weekend, Rich Valdés’ run-in with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade highlighted the growing debate over whether or not there should be a debate at all in politics. As both Valdés and Cortez are native New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent, it’s no surprise they both attended New York’s annual celebration of the Puerto Rican heritage and its contribution to American society and culture.

Valdés reported on his podcast that despite their political differences, he was happy to see Cortez attending the event - previously, he has criticized Cortez for her lack of involvement in her own home state and district. Of course, they also disagree politically, especially on economic issues. Since February, Valdés has offered to debate the Congresswoman several times and had yet to receive a response from either her or her office. The parade, which encourages unity among all those of Puerto Rican descent, seemed like an ideal opportunity for the two to exchange pleasantries and, as Valdés was hoping, to discuss the possibility of a future debate. However, when Valdés approached Cortez at the parade, the latter dropped the hand she was shaking, gave Valdés the “side-eye”, and ran across the street before the former could even say hello to her.

Afterward, Valdés tweeted about the exchange - or lack thereof - between himself and Cortez, raising the question of why Cortez has not just ignored him, but now openly evaded him. If she was as confident in her economic policies as she claims to be, surely she would have no problem debating them with Valdés. While Cortez herself did not reply to Valdés’ tweet, one of her spokesmen did. In his profane reply, Corbin Trent claimed not only that one must be “entitled” to speak with a congresswoman like Cortez, but also that if Valdés wishes to debate her, he should run for office - implying that then and only then would he be eligible to even talk to her.

Valdés’ reaction to Trent’s reply was as follows: since when must American citizens be entitled in order to debate members of Congress? On his podcast, Valdés reminds his listeners that this government was made by and for the people, not their elected officials. “The idea that someone ought to be entitled to speak with a congressperson is clearly emblematic of the problem that’s going on in her (Cortez’s) camp.” Valdés is exactly right - this country is a democratic republic, not a monarchy. It is Congress’ honor and duty to serve American citizens, not the other way around. Valdés continues, “Last I checked, we rejected the monarchy. We rejected King George. We rejected them telling us what we had to do and when we had to do it.”

What Americans chose instead was a political system where the people, not the government, are in charge. Open debate and dialogue between regular citizens and elected officials are not just acceptable, but necessary, for such a system to operate. That debate and dialogue are what keeps elected officials in check. In America, if the people don’t agree with the policies put forth by their government, they can say so – and they should say so. It would serve Trent well to remember that.


Ruth Moreno is a contributor to