The You Tube Debates: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

25 07 2007

by mr. travis

To say that the experiment of having a You Tube generated presidential debate was a success would be an understatement. CNN is still touting how great the whole thing was, acting like a teenage boy who had just gotten laid for the first time. The television ratings, while not as large as the last debate, were respectable, especially amongst the 18-35 demographic, the prime target for the You Tube sponsored event. As for the debate itself, it was fairly interesting, from the range of questions (going from the pointed, to the sublime), to the way most of the candidates felt the need to clutch their podiums as if there was a fear throughout the room that if they were to let go, they would float away into oblivion. Dennis Kucinich was the most intriguing of the candidates, not because there is much of a chance for him to win, but because he was the only one who seemed to eschew the political bullshit and just tell it like it is, even if that meant admitting that his party has screwed up royally since taking power in Congress after the November elections.

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The idea behind a political debate such as this is for the candidates to give their views to the people in a format that allows the future voters of America to discern where they stand on the issues without the supposed salesman point of view that comes from most political ads these days. In order for these viewpoints to make it to the future voters, one would think that the debates would be shown in the most accessible fashion. Yet, in true corporate group think fashion, the debates were only shown on CNN. MSNBC and Fox News acted as if they were pouting children with little coverage given to the debates. While the debates were occurring, if you were watching one of those stations, you would have no idea there even was a debate going on.

But, what about all of those people who don’t have cable, or weren’t near a television, or stay away from CNN? It’s an issue that has yet to be brought up, but an important one at that. The people of this country pride themselves on living in a democracy, one that gives everyone the right to vote. Too often though, in our nation’s history that has been put to the test. Even in the beginning, it was property rights that relegated the right to vote, followed by gender, color, all of these things designed to keep the voting population from having too much power. This is somewhat of an extension of that policy. A lot of people take something as simple as cable television for granted, but there are many who are without it and they deserve to see or hear these debates just as much as those who can afford cable TV.

The idea behind the You Tube debates is fantastic in its ability to at least give the impression that the people have some sort of power over the questions given to the candidates. But, to instantly eliminate a good source of your potential voting segment by placing it on a cable channel is odd to say the least, especially considering all of the problems that were had in the previous election. One would think that both parties would be looking to persuade those voters, to find ways to tell them that process does work and the ills of what occurred three years ago won’t happen again. What better way than through a debate such as this? Instead, it’s just another missed opportunity.

It is still early in the presidential race, with about six months to go before the primaries kick off. . . somewhere. So, while there is plenty of time for all corners of the population to be inundated with information, the networks and news stations need to realize that this goes beyond corporate profits and commercial dollars, and it needs to be something that is shown on all stations, both television and radio. The You Tube experiment went off with flying colors in and of itself, now it’s time for everyone to be in on the experiment. Otherwise it just risks alienating more of the public and widening the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

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