The YouTube Debates

Two years ago, it was how YouTube made an impact on the public opinion of political candidates, as former Virginia senator George Allen’s campaign turned on the "Macaca" moment.  The next (baby) step played out last night with the Democratic Presidential debate following a first-of-its-kind format whereby the questions were asked of the candidates by ordinary citizens via YouTube videos.  Out of nearly 3,000 videos submitted as part on an ongoing contest, 39 questions were picked and put to the candidates to respond.

One of the biggest takeaways for me from this event is how the format points again to the gradual "disintermediation" of traditional media.  Most debates are driven by a panel of journalists from newspapers, local and network TV stations and radio asking their own questions of candidates.  We’ve seen in the last couple of presidential campaigns "town hall" style formats where citizens are selected to ask questions, but there was a careful screen in place to keep decorum in order.

Granted, last night’s debate was broadcast by CNN and the videos handpicked by the network.  However, the types of questions posed were unlike those ever broached in debates before.  Questions like, will Americans give reparations for slavery?  Are we watching the same *blanking* war?  Or a snowman asking, what are you going to do about global warming?

An introductory question asked the candidates to give direct answers, but most candidates didn’t heed, IMHO.  They’re still politicians, after all.  But it was refreshing to see the candidates respond to questions that represent what’s really on voters’ minds.

And just to be clear, this is a bipartisan post, as I’ll mention that the Republicans will be put before the YouTube community on September 17.  It will be interesting to see how that one plays out.