A woman hasn't moderated a general-election presidential debate since 1992, but three teenage girls from New Jersey are hoping to change that. Last Tuesday, Emma, Sammi, and Elena stormed into the Washington headquarters of the Commission on Presidential Debates with 118,000 signatures backing up their petition for a woman moderator.
"It's necessary that our country sees a woman in this prominent position, being visible on the political stage, asking the questions," 16-year-old Elena Tsemberis told The Daily Beast. "A female moderator would be able to add a new perspective to the debates and touch on topics that are salient for women in this country, like reproductive rights, inequality in the workplace, and how the economy impacts women and their families."
But that's exactly why candidates don't want to shake things up with a woman moderator: old, boring white guys are somewhat exalted in our country and therefore won't remind voters to press Obama and Romney on complicated issues. Maybe that's why the debate commission has completely ignored the girls (and all media requests for comment) thus far; on Tuesday, the teens and their petition were kicked out by building security.
However, debate expert Allan Louden points out that it would make Romney look fantastic if he changed the status quo by suggesting a woman should moderate:
Romney should call for PBS's Gwen Ifill to moderate, suggests Louden. As a black woman, Ifill would of course be "a statement," he says. But because she's a veteran of multiple vice-presidential debates, he adds, she offers much of the security of the status quo. "She's predictable. She's heavily researched. She has a track record."
Just think of what would happen if Romney came out and said, "I'm for her," posits Louden. As political moves go, he notes, it would be "marvelous."
Oh god. Please, Obama, pick a woman moderator first. Then you can sit back and watch Romney awkwardly try to explain how he feels about the Fair Pay Act.