Next Time Ask the Evolution-of-Dance Guy or the Numa-Numa Kid to Moderate
In the end, YouTube did manage to do something drastic to the presidential debates–it made them watchable. But last night’s presidential debate–the first to feature questions culled from citizen videos posted to YouTube–wasn’t exactly the transformation of the democratic process some had hoped for. Certainly, it wasn’t the staid sort of affair to which we’ve become accustomed–YouTube’s freewheeling populism made certain of that. But it did end up being politics as usual, as Democratic candidates answered the quirky, but often tough, questions put to them with their standard talking points and platitudes.
Which isn’t all that surprising when you think about it. The questions were posted online prior to the debate; the candidates almost certainly reviewed them in advance and prepared answers. “The YouTubified night was designed to bring spontaneity and freshness to a debate process that–more than a year before the election — has already grown a little stale,” Alessandra Stanley wrote in the New York Times. “It was certainly fresh and more fun to watch, but the taped questions and canned candidate messages worked against the spontaneity that is supposed to be the point of a live debate. Candidates expose their strengths and weaknesses best when challenging one another. Last night, it was the viewers who got exposure. YouTube and CNN provided more catharsis than clarity.”