10/23/2014 01:01 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2014

Wanted: Candidates Willing to Debate the Issues

For Hire: Candidates Willing to Debate the Issues
Candidates Not Willing to Debate Need Not Apply

"Imagine if you were applying for the most important job of your life and you never sat down in front of your potential employer and answered the tough questions. Imagine if all you gave him was a few pamphlets about why the other candidate for the job is a bum and how amazing you would be in the position. What a sham."

This recent editorial in the Helena (Mont.) Independent Record got it right. Ducking candidate debates seems to be in vogue these days, and voters are the ones paying the price.

Who can blame them? Campaigns know they can reach the voters directly with a carefully crafted message, through one-way communications like TV commercials, radio advertisements and direct mail. And let's be honest -- avoiding a debate is a lot easier than mopping up after a bad performance.

But we deserve to hear from the candidates, because they work for all of us. We are the hiring managers, and debates are a key part of the interview process. Yes, we can research the candidates' positions on issues, but debates are one of the rare chances we have to see how candidates stack up against one another. It's our opportunity to do a real-time, side-by-side comparison to choose the candidate who best fits our views and values. We shouldn't have to wait until after the election to find out where our candidates really stand on the issues.

Without the opportunity of seeing candidates debate one another, we're left trying to make sense of negative TV ads, mailings and annoying phone calls.

AARP is committed to helping voters get the real scoop on where the candidates stand on issues important to older Americans, such as Social Security and Medicare, without the spin. For the past 28 years, we have been a to-go resource for nonpartisan voter information. Our online Voter Guides give you a side-by-side comparison of the candidates' views in their own words.

As a promise to you, the voters, AARP remains committed to sponsoring debates on the federal and state levels across the country. We applaud those candidates who have participated in debates and spoken directly to the public. And for those candidates who are avoiding public forums, we challenge you to stand before your constituents and share your views and positions on critical issues like strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and supporting caregivers.

At this point, the job to serve the American people is still up for grabs in 471 federal races and hundreds of state races. AARP encourages all candidates to stand up before your constituents, debate the issues and offer solutions.