Attacking Carly Fiorina for “interrupting” isn’t a great debate strategy

If politeness and etiquette were prerequisites for the presidency, most of the candidates would be disqualified already. Every debate has been filled with name-calling and accusations, as well as an endless (but often entertaining) stream of folks trying to talk over one another. Somehow, however, only Carly Fiorina has been shamed by her running mates—in two different debates, by two different people—for interrupting them.

The 9/16/15 debate (transcript):

KASICH: There’s a —

CHRISTIE: John — I’m not done yet, John.

FIORINA: A track record of leadership is not a game. It is the issue in this election.

CHRISTIE: Stop — and stop playing — and Carly — Carly, listen. You can interrupt everybody else on this stage, you’re not going to interrupt me, OK?

The 11/10/15 debate (transcript):

PAUL: Ronald Reagan was strong, but Ronald Reagan didn’t…

FIORINA: …Ronald Reagan walked away at Reykjavik.

PAUL: …send troops into the Middle East…

FIORINA: …he walked away, he quit talks…

PAUL: …Can I finish…

FIORINA: …when it was time to quit talking…

PAUL: …Can I finish my time?

Could I finish with my time?

TRUMP: Why does she keep interrupting everybody? [laughter]

Terrible. [booing]

These were the only two times in any of the debates so far—Republican, Democrat, undercard, main stage—where someone was called out specifically for interrupting. And let’s be clear: The Republican debates have been overflowing with interruptions and people talking over each other, and moderators have had a tough time trying to actually moderate because of it. With 8-11 candidates on stage desperately trying to communicate their well-practiced talking points to the world, the debates get chaotic.

Interestingly enough, only the woman on stage gets shamed for daring to interrupt the men on stage—this is no coincidence. Women have historically been judged based on how polite they are—hence the term “ladylike”—and candidates are only dishing out jabs that they think will make their opponents look bad or weak. Rude lady = bad president? Chris Christie, even after the September 16 debate, continued talking about how Fiorina interrupted everyone too much. (Note that Chris Christie is now in the undercard debate.)

What surprised me more than Trump’s statement last night, however, was the reaction—folks weren’t having it. Trump got booed. Fiorina stayed silent, gave Trump a laser death stare from her podium, and let the crowd deliver a response better than one she could have. I wouldn’t vote for Trump or Fiorina, but it’s promising to see that attacking a woman for being unladylike isn’t winning people over or proving to be a successful campaign strategy—because in 2015, it shouldn’t be.

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