There is a deep discrepancy between political actors’ official calls for public debate in and on the European Union and the debates in which European publics actually partake. Top-down invitations to debate in the deliberative mode leave the citizens cold, and political actors are unable or unwilling to listen to, let alone engage with, emotionally guided bottom-up participation. Using an illustrative case of a Danish public debate over an alleged ban on liquorice pipes, this article argues that the disconnect between invitation and participation may be explained by the fact that representatives of (national and European) political institutions tend to rely on a simplified version of deliberative democracy. This implies privileging rational truth claims at the expense of emotional truthfulness. Connecting invitation and participation, it is argued, requires a reconciliation of rationality and affect within the deliberative paradigm that may enable the conceptualization and practice of public debate as affective rationality.