YouTube’s new channel for the 2008 Presidential Candidates now makes it dead-simple for voters to get in touch with the men and woman who have entered the race. The posted videos are exactly — and only — what the candidates want you to see, but they do several democracy-enhancing things.
First, the channel allows voters to see all of the candidates at once and get a sense of (and compare) what each of them is saying, both Democrat and Republican.
Second, it is currently — and will likely remain — an attack-ad-free zone, so you don’t feel like shit every time you simply wade into the election. If a candidate wants to make a jab at another, he or she pretty much has to own up to it, at least here.
And third, as millions of users have illustrated, it is dirt-cheap for a candidate to get his or her message out on YouTube (assuming YouTube isn’t charging anything), just as it is dirt-cheap for a candidate to leverage any existing social networking outlet on the Web (especially compared to running TV ads). So, the more that Americans leverage the internet to get a picture of their options for 2008, the more equal-opportunity that will be created for candidates to bypass traditional roadblocks to reaching voters.
And for voters to get involved.
Unfortunately, this last point on leveling the playing-field is counteracted by a whole lot of other factors, including the fact that the primaries are likely to be front-loaded this time around, given how many states are considering moving up their presidential primary dates. According to the Boston Globe, this means raising at least $100 million before even the first vote is cast in early 2008.
Just as we thought the internet might help bring down the cost of the process, structural changes in the primary system just made the process a whole lot more expensive. And even though, in theory, a candidate could trade some expensive ad buys for cheap YouTube video postings and thereby reduce costs, in reality YouTube might simply be an additional campaign expense.
Presidential campaigning just isn’t the train ride it used to be.