Presidential debates in America harken back to Lincoln-Douglas in the 1858 election. Not many Americans saw them, but they were an important step for Lincoln. A hundred years later, the Presidential debates influenced and may have even determined the result of the 1960 election. People who heard the debates on radio thought Richard Nixon did better; people who saw the debates on television thought JFK won; many more people were watching television.
The online Presidential debates to be hosted by Charlie Rose this Fall will be another breakthrough. For the first time in Presidential debates, people at large – rather than a few handpicked journalists – will be able to ask the candidates questions. With the advent of blogging, people in general have been getting increasing access to all levels of media. It’s time and it’s good that we’re finally getting more access to the election process. After all, we the people at large are the ultimate bosses of elections, or at least should be.
Of course, media are only as effective as the people who use them. What guarantee do we have that the real-time questions or the videos sent in will ask the questions that you and I would like the candidates to answer?
There is none. There are no guarantees. That’s always the case when a bottom-up participatory democratic system replaces a top-down expert-driven process. But certainly this process will be more representative of the people than questions asked by journalists who, however professional, are elected by no one.
So kudos to Yahoo, The Huffington Post, and Slatefor making this happen. There will be two online debates – one for Democrats and one for Republicans. They will take place after Labor Day. Chances are high that something exciting and historic will happen.Powered by Sidelines