We Need More Female Debate Moderators -- With More Power

Candy Crowley will moderate tonight's debate, but she won't get to ask her own questions

With so much riding on the vice presidential debate last week, it’s commonly accepted that both Joe Biden and Paul Ryan performed adequately well, with no overwhelmingly clear winner. That is to say, there was no clear winner among the candidates -- but there was one person on stage who stood out for taking care of business with aplomb: moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

Raddatz did such an outstanding job of controlling the debate, keeping the candidates in line and holding them accountable for both time and content, why can’t we see more female moderators in that role?

CNN’s Candy Crowley will moderate tonight -- and I’m very excited to see it, considering she’ll only be the second woman in that position, following Carole Simpson two decades ago. But just as with Simpson, Crowley will moderate in the “town hall” style, in which she’ll ask the audience’s questions instead of her own.

It should be noted that Crowley might not have gotten a chance to be up on stage at all, were it not for three high school students -- Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel and Elena Tsemberis -- who started a campaign on Change.org earlier this summer asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to select a female moderator. More than 120,000 people supported the petition. [https://www.change.org/petitions/it-s-time-for-a-woman-moderator-equality-in-the-2012-presidential-debates]

Recently, Crowley has made some suggestions that she might assume a broader role, and as a result, she’s faced pushback from both the Obama and Romney campaigns. 

And that doesn’t seem fair. She’s well known as an experienced journalist and is quite capable. Surely she can be trusted in the same role as Jim Lehrer, whose impotent performance moderating the first presidential debate was about as widely criticized as Obama’s (well, almost).

Indeed, while live chatting the first presidential debate with iVillage’s Chief Correspondent Kelly Wallace and the iVoices earlier this month, our group became increasingly frustrated with Lehrer for his failure to efficiently guide the conversation toward topics that mattered to us. I wrote that a woman might have been more engaged and less detached. It was a missed opportunity.

At any rate, I wish Crowley the best up there. Here’s hoping that, like Raddatz before her, she kicks butt as a powerful moderator -- both for the success of the seriously high-stakes debate, and for the promise of more future female moderators.

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and iVillage’s Chief Election News Blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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