Why Are Debate Moderators Afraid of Social Issues?

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Atrios comments on debate topics:

We’ll see how the remaining debates go, but it’s interesting how now that issues that were (perhaps wrongly) for years seen as things Democrats had to be on defense about are seen more as strengths, they mostly disappear as issues. Immigration, Teh Gay Marriage, Abortion. Yes abortion made an appearance, but the question wasn’t about abortion, it was about how Joe Biden could defy his church.

I don’t know for sure why these topics were mostly absent, but after the debate I was musing about that too. We’ve had two debates now that have included endless discussions of taxes and economic plans, and sure, those are important topics. But let’s face it: they’re also deadly boring, and most viewers probably zone out pretty quickly. But how about gay marriage? Abortion? Gun rights? Immigration? Climate change? Drug laws? Religious liberty? I’ll bet most voters are actually a lot more interested in those topics than they are in Syria or the optimal top marginal rate on millionaires, and yet they’ve been almost completely absent from the debates. Abortion and (relatedly) religious liberty got very brief mentions last night before Martha Raddatz got bored with them, and in last week’s debate these topics got no attention at all.

Why? Is it because the moderators don’t personally care about these things much? Is it because they somehow consider them less serious than questions about the economy? It certainly can’t be because there’s no disagreement between the parties on these issues. It’s weird.

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