10 January 2008

Election Politics

Televised election campaign events mainly consist of candidates trading 90-second sound bites at each other. The news media prescreens all the topics and even prearranges who gets to answer which questions. They call these things "debates." I've never understood how anyone can expect to learn anything useful by watching them, and as a result, up until very recently I've basically ignored election campaigns altogether.

Then came Candidates@Google. It's a series of hour-long videos on Youtube where Google hosts several of the presidential candidates. The basic format is an informal question-answer session between the candidate and first a leader at Google, then members of the audience. This allows regular people (not news media) to ask intelligent questions on topics that most concern them. It also allows the candidate to reply for as long as they want, in as much detail as they want.

So my plan for this election season is to make my voting decisions based largely on these videos. So far @Google has videos for: Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and Mike Gravel. Candidates are invited based on how much interest the employees of Google have in hearing from them, and they're evidently more interested in the Democratic candidates than the Republican ones this election season; this suits me fine, since I am too.

The downside is that many of them were made fairly early on, so they're mainly good for giving me first impressions. Of the ones I like, I then further investigate by looking at their websites. In an ideal world, Google would make more of these videos near the end of campaigning time so I can get some "last words" impressions as well.

Some candidates also have Youtube accounts. There they can put videos of themselves answering questions from regular people for as long as they want, in as much detail as they want. I've thus far not gotten around to looking into these, other than to discover that they exist. It'll be another avenue to explore more fully in future election seasons.

All in all, I like that it's becoming much easier for the candidates to tell me all about themselves and why I should vote for them.


Janiece Murphy said...

MWT, I think politician's "handlers" do them more harm than good. I'm going to look into the Google videos. Since they're not scripted, I may be able to get a better sense of the candidates than I had before.

Jeri said...

I agree with the uselessness of the overly staged & restrictive debates.

I tend to read - read websites both by the candidate (or his/her handlers) as well as the most unbiased source of 3rd party info I can find.

I'll have to check out the videos as well.