Vice Presidential Debate Moderator Elaine Quijano Suffered Through 90 Minutes Of Interruptions
The Oct. 4 vice presidential debate was a contentious affair with a lot of interrupting, talking-over, and generally unparliamentary procedure. With the slightly less formal set-up and rules, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence basically threw etiquette out the window and practically ran over each other and the moderator trying to talk more. Try as she did to keep them in order, moderator Elaine Quijano got ignored by Kaine and Pence a lot during the 90-minute debate that was all too familiar to women everywhere — two men talking and completely ignoring the woman in charge.
Debate moderators never have an easy job, but by most accounts, this vice presidential debate was a special kind of train wreck. Many major media outlets and thousands of online commentators agreed that the interruptions were excessive and the candidates out-of-line in their behavior toward Quijano. To her benefit, she took it like a champ, frequently choosing ideal moments to try to steer the conversation and shape the debate as a whole. She also never lost her cool, an incredible accomplishment in and of itself given the high stakes event and the infuriatingly rampant mansplaining. Nearly all women know the feeling of being talked over and ignored by one or more men, and Quijano showed that it probably wasn't her first time either — she handled the frustration with unyielding poise and professionalism.
Not everyone was impressed by Quijano's job, particularly some prominent members of her own industry. The Washington Post compiled some tweets from journalists whose reviews of Quijano's moderation were split, some stating that she had grace under fire and some asserting that she lost control of the situation. What most of them failed to mention was the influence, conscious or subconscious, that Quijano's gender and race likely had on the candidates' behavior towards her. Ironically, the candidates touched on implicit biases during the discussion on policing and law enforcement, which may have in fact played a role in the debate itself.
Quijano's performance as the moderator wasn't really the important part of the evening, but it was important to see how Kaine and Pence treated her. In the heat of the moment, neither candidate responded to her with the respect she deserved, and that's revealing of each one's character. Unfortunately, far too many women, particularly women of color, are familiar with situations like this, and definitely saw themselves in Quijano's situation. That could have an interesting impact on the messages coming out of the campaign in the coming days, and probably isn't a good thing for either candidate.