YouTube Makes On-Stage Debut in Political Discourse

Though I wasn’t sure what to expect when I tuned in this afternoon, I found the inaugural YouTube-CNN Democratic presidential candidate debate really engaging. The candidates’ answers were a mix of informative and blustery politicking, but the 39 YouTube-submitted questions elicited much more personal and, at times, light-hearted responses than the usual fare.

Though YouTube’s ubiquity isn’t always a good thing, it’s great that they had enough clout to get this done — and I hope it’s a lasting tradition. Though the novelty may wear off, perhaps the terrible video-of-a-projected-video camerawork will improve. Another take is embedded below, and more can be found here.

Some questions I had high hopes for fell flat — barely anyone actually answered “say something you like and something you dislike about the candidate to your left” — while others drew out varied and interesting responses — the differences between answers to “would you work for the minimum wage?” were telling. And hearing questions about healthcare from a woman fighting breast cancer, and about gay marriage from two women who asked if they might marry each other, made political abstraction look all the more silly.

The program also included a sprinkling of campaign-produced “YouTube-style” (which doesn’t mean anything, but whatever) videos from the candidates, and it was particularly interesting to see the debaters placed on the same level as their interoggators, mostly looking self-satisfied when the CNN camera cut to them watching their own ads. An attack ad seems just a little bit more accountable when the seven people you’re attacking are standing on the same stage as you while it plays.