Why it matters that a woman moderates

Updated
CNN anchor Candy Crowley, who will soon be the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in the last 20 years.
CNN anchor Candy Crowley, who will soon be the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in the last 20 years.
AP Photo/Edward M. Pio Roda, CNN

This is what debate moderation is all about and why we should care.

The candidates must only respond to the questions that are posed to them, so the debate moderator has enormous power over the agenda-setting aspect. They help to determine whether or not any given set of issues rise to the level of national discourse in the context of a political campaign. Therefore, we want those moderators to be fair, to be smart, we want them to experienced, but we also want them to be diverse.

We don’t want to assume that it’s only women’s responsibility to ask questions about women’s issues, because I hope that male moderators also will ask questions that specifically direct the candidates to respond to issues that women are concerned about.

But Candy Crowley is a profoundly experienced journalist who has followed dozens of campaigns over her years as a journalist, and I expect that the kind of questions she’ll ask will have as much to do with her role as a political journalist rather than her role as a woman.

I think it’s taken so long to get a female moderator because when people are in positions of privilege, they often just don’t notice who is not in the room. I may be in a room that’s very racially diverse, has men and women, but because I’m heterosexual I don’t notice that there’s no one in the room from the LGBT community to help address concerns of LGBT citizens. So I think part of it is that the world of political journalism has been such a boys club for so long that it’s probably less about active discrimination and more just sort of forgetting that women exist as part of our political world.

Ed. note: This column originally appeared yesterday in Politico Arena. Today, Melissa interviewed the three young activists whose Change.org petition is credited with forcing this change. The video is below.


Why it matters that a woman moderates

Updated