I am an attorney with a litigation practice in my hometown of Binghamton, New York.
After attending law school at the University of Miami, I returned to Binghamton in 1992. I immediately became involved with the local Democratic Party. As I witnessed our national politics descend into meaningless name-calling, it became increasingly clear that party affiliation and non-stop positioning for the next election had overtaken the commitment to America as a whole. America’s discourse on critical issues is nothing short of a national disgrace.
In 2007 I started a radio show on WNBF 1290 in Binghamton – “You Defend It with Rob Kilmer”. The premise was simply this: When it comes to the important issues we face as a nation, average Americans need to do what our elected officials refuse to do: DEBATE THE ISSUES.
With that in mind, my show focused on the facts behind the issues, and not the personalities of the players on the right and left. We replaced fear and blame with focus and reason. The idea of nationally televised debates on a regular basis – “The You Defend It Debate Series” – began to take shape during the two years that I hosted the radio show. The hallmark of the debate series is its excruciatingly simple set of rules: 1) Debaters must answer each question directly; and 2) They must do so without a single reference to their opponent’s argument, party or perceived political philosophy.
On July 12, 2009, six lawyers and one New York State Supreme Court Trial Justice (ret.) – all committed to elevating the debate in America beyond the blame-and-fear culture of cable and talk radio – filmed an installment of “The You Defend It Debate Series”. The topic was “The Proper Role of a Supreme Court Justice”. The debate addressed issues including gay marriage, gun control, affirmative action and the death penalty. The debate was worthy of the issues being addressed – and worthy of the Americans whose lives are affected by them.
I have been looking for a home for the show since the pilot was filmed. I have met with members of Congress and network executives. The reaction I have received has been consistent – it sounds like a great idea, but where is the proof that Americans really want this?
On Sunday, July 29, 2012 a column about my show began to run in print and online publications nationwide. The column was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts, Jr. The response has been overwhelming – and predictable. Americans are exhausted with a political culture that tells them who to blame and who to fear – and does nothing to resolve the real problems we face. You can read the article here.
Americans deserve better because Americans are better. We need to reassert our rightful place in the national dialogue. We need a forum where answers and solutions are prioritized over talking points and insults. I will keep working until that forum, the You Defend It Debate Series, is a reality.