Debate season is upon us. Yes, already! With 24 Democrats making up the most diverse cohort of presidential hopefuls in history, it's only natural that the debate hosts will be diverse, too. And that's exactly what we're getting: On Tuesday, NBC announced the five moderators for the first Democratic presidential primary debate will be Rachel Maddow, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, and José Diaz-Balart.
The debate will take place at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, FL, on June 26 and 27. As we exclusively reported last month, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is requiring that each of the 12 (!) Democratic primary debates include at least one woman and one person of color as moderators (sometimes, it will be the same person).
The stipulation is meant to fight a troubling trend that has historically plagued the primary debates: White men have largely been the sole moderators, and therefore, they have set the agenda for the issues the American public learned about. This means issues such as child-care costs, paid family leave, and maternal mortality have often been left out of the conversation. (As an FYI: This year's debate topics have yet to be publicly released.)
According to an analysis released by Time’s Up earlier this month, 44% of the 132 presidential primary debates between 1996 and 2016 were moderated by men. When it comes to racial and ethnic diversity, the numbers were even worse: 73% of the debates were moderated exclusively by white people. About 20% of them had at least one Black moderator and 11% had at least one Latinx moderator. Women of color were the ones who got the short end of the stick, however. According to Time's Up, 86% of the debates in the past two decades had no women of color as moderators. "Debate moderators have enormous power, and they need to better represent today’s voters," Jennifer Klein, chief strategy and policy officer at Time's Up, said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
The selection of two women and two people of color for the first debate shows a step in the right direction.