By Lauren Rearick
The 2020 presidential elections are drawing ever closer, and as hopeful candidates continue to unveil their platforms on issues including reproductive rights, gun control, and the cost of higher education, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced a change to one aspect of the voter education process.
Beginning this year, the DNC intends to diversify its debate moderating panels for the primary debates, Refinery29 reported. Debates are frequently used by candidates as a means of spreading their message and interacting with voters, and the DNC wants to ensure each candidate is given a “inclusive and fair debate process,” Mary Beth Cahill, DNC senior advisor told Refinery29. In order to accomplish this process, the DNC intends to “feature a diverse group of moderators and panelists including women and people of color.” HuffPost confirmed with the DNC that at least one person of color will be required to join as a moderator in addition to the one required woman moderator.
The DNC didn’t share what moderators or panelists might oversee upcoming debates, but CNN reports that Democratic primary debates begin with a two-day event on June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida. Traditionally, a debate is held over a one-night period, but given this year’s Democratic candidate pool includes 23 candidates, the DNC has decided on extending the event to two nights, the New York Times reports. Future Democratic debates are scheduled for July 30 and 31, and on a to-be-determined date in September; the DNC intends to hold 12 total debates during the 2020 election season ahead of the 2020 Democratic National Convention on July 13, 2020, CNN notes. At that time, the party will officially choose its candidate for the 2020 general election.
Speaking with Refinery29, Cahill touched on the extensive selection of candidates, and why it was important for the party to change its moderation process. "We have taken an innovative and inclusive approach to debates so that we reach the widest audience and give our historically large field of candidates a fair chance to make their case to the American people," she said.
Debate moderators have been traditionally male, HuffPost notes; a 2016 debate moderated by Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill marked the first time a male panelist hadn’t been included in a Democratic debate. Women have been featured on debate panels in the past, but they were most often accompanied by a male co-host or tasked with fielding audience responses, Time noted. Up until 1976, women hadn’t been included on debate panels, and it wasn’t until 2012 that CNN anchor Candy Crowley became the first woman moderator to quiz debate participants.
The Republican National Convention has yet to announce if it will hold any debates between President Donald Trump and challengers like Bill Weld. In January 2019, the group voted to give the president “undivided support” in the 2020 race; Weld officially announced his candidacy on April 15.