I've written before about my frustration with politicians and their online efforts. It seems to me that to date, the presidential candidates have used online only to one-directionally distribute their messages out and to raise funds. They have shown little if any interest in actually using the Internet for two-way conversations with voters.
When I suggested at a recent conference that it was time that candidates use the Internet for conversations, a political pro sneered that I was suggesting presidential candidates have to email voters.
Tomorrow night, there will be two small but significant steps in the path toward internet-enhanced democracy. First, is the CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential candidate's debate that starts at 4 pm Pacific. CNN will televise a live debate and its editors will select video clips of questions that have been uploaded on YouTube over recent weeks. They'll do the same for Republican candidates in September.
This is significant in several ways, but it still wedges professionals between the candidates and the people they want to serve. If you ask me, voters can do just fine without gatekeepers and filtering systems, but this is progress and I like the concept.
Immediately following the debate, John Edwards, will become the second Democratic presidential candidate to appear on Ustream. Immediately following the CNN?YouTube debates Edwards will go live on Ustream to talk directly with voters via live chat comments.
While YouTube has video clips and Ustream only has text chat, the questions asked on YouTube will be reviewed by candidate handlers and newscaster screeners. Someday, and I hope some day soon, we'll be able to see the politicos and the inquiring voters on a split live screen, but not just yet. I'm on the Ustream team, but even if I were in the neutral position I prefer Ustream's approach. i think the more direct we can make democracy, the better.
What I like most is that we are in the early stages of a new and better way to select candidates. The internet is beginning to restore the democracy part of the elective process.
I can only dream about the role online video and other Internet functionality will contribute the presidential election of 2012.