Does It Matter If The Debates Ignore Women?

During the first presidential candidates debate, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney mentioned anything related to equal pay, reproductive rights or paid family leave despite the fact that restricting women’s rights was the single most important priority for Congressional Republicans and women voters are an increasingly important, and diverse, demographic. In the second debate, at least one of these issues is almost certain to be discussed, but at this point in the campaign, does it even matter?

It matters in the short-term because Romney’s positions on choice, equal pay, contraception benefits and nearly every economic issue that matter to women seem to be in a constant state of flux, reliant on whoever his audience at the moment happens to be. Democrats need to make Romney pick a position and hold him to it, and the debate is an excellent opportunity to make that point.  President Obama could take a cue from his tenacious Vice President and affirmatively make the case that women’s rights are not just important, they are fundamental to the health and success of the republic.

Even if President Obama does seize this opportunity to show the public Romney’s dangerous platform for women and families and what it means for the future of this country, the optics, and even some of the substance, are against the Obama administration here. For starters, this second debate is the more casual “town hall” style where chosen members of the audience ask the candidates pre-selected questions. That means no matter how an issue like abortion or equal pay comes up, it will not face the same kind of scrutiny or follow-up from the moderator as in traditional debates.

In this case, that could be especially significant since CNN’s Candy Crowley will be moderating the debate. The Romney camp has already gone public with its concerns.  Crowley, a noted journalist who is not afraid to ask tough questions, will not be as accommodating as Jim Lehrer was during the first debate. But many of Crowley’s strengths will go under-utilized, if utilized at all, during this second debate. Town hall moderators mostly hold the mic and transition from audience member to audience member. While Crowley has indicated she will ask follow-up questions, the fact remains that if the Romney camp was looking for a way to contain a possibly tough questioner, they couldn’t have picked a better forum.

It will also be hard for the president to escape complaints that any attacks on Romney for his position on women’s rights is a response to complaints the president failed to take the issue seriously in the first debate. And I think that’s fair. It’s hard to escape feeling pandered too now that polls suggest a tightening of the race and after Vice President Joe Biden did such an excellent job showing how to make the case that women’s rights matter.

But all that shouldn’t stop the president from both pressing Romney on his Hawthornian vision of American society and reminding voters of the president’s own record in fighting for women and families not just in the debate, but every day from now until November 6th.

Related Stories:

Those Who Want To End Abortion Believe They Know the Real Romney. Do Voters?

Are Women Voters Really Abandoning Democrats? Not So Fast

Romney’s War on Contraception

Photo from Emiko Hime via flickr.

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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

it matters.

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V.3 years ago

Jean P., your post demonstrates the biggest problem that you Conservatives have. You have a very limited view of your country and its duty to its citizens. We are defending ourselves as women because the Republicans and the Tea Party has separated us, WE did NOT do that.

I can tell by your post that your views are narrow but TRY to understand that things like Planned Parenthood and Contraceptives are a large part of America and as such we not only want but need to know where the people running for the highest office in the land stands on the subjects. These things are NOT just a woman’s issue, this is everyone’s issue and it affects every part of our lives including Schools, employment, health care, SS and Medicare.

One last thing, it has taken over 200 years to get us into this mess BUT YOU think it should have been fixed in just four. How stupid can you get?

Evelyn M.
Evelyn M.3 years ago

Dan O's comment about the Monsanto man is a grave concern to all of us. After the 3rd debate that also was not addressed Wish women's issues and the environment would have been but those very important issues were ignored.

Evelyn M.
Evelyn M.3 years ago

Great post Karen H. Jean P one wonders what rock you are living under.

a             y m.
g d c.3 years ago


Adam C.
Adam C.3 years ago

It matters when they arrest two women presidential candidates who are on the ballot (Jill Stein & Cheri Honkola) and shackle them to chairs for 8 hours just for trying to enter the debate building.

janice b.
jan b.3 years ago

Jean---really provided evidence that not every woman supports women's rights and that is a problem. They don't support women who deserve it which elevates women to a higher status in government or in any area really. Some women are just enslaved to culture and tradition and can't get free of it. It was even evident when some women in the early 1900's didn't believe they should be entitled to vote.
Ann Romney was not considered to be sympathetic to the agitation of liberal women who wanted a voice in the mormon church---wanted a baby-changing table in the men's bathrooms too.......Ann was invited to social events sponsored by Exponent II but did not attend. She was, in the words of one member, understood to be “not that kind of woman.”
Oh...Ann would be a great do-nothing first lady and the others against Planned Parenthood and anything that would support women who are often the financially strapped in our country is sad that some women won't support other women that deserve it.

janice b.
jan b.3 years ago

It's okay to ignore women In a debate as we know Obama has already supported women and where he stands. And we also know that Romney will lie about his support of women. So what's the point.

Anna Undebeck
Anna Undebeck3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad3 years ago

Green Star coming your way Jean P. YOU nailed it! You would think with all this "war on women" garbage, that all they care about is their nether regions! And we normal women spent all these years thinking that it was only men who thought with the wrong head!