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Friday Fun: Favorite Debate Videos

BY Joshua Levy | Friday, July 20 2007

Yesterday Jose Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post remarked that “the signature moments of the campaign so far — the moments when it crossed over from C-SPAN to popular culture — have occurred on YouTube.” So true. Think about it: notwithstanding our criticisms of the upcoming CNN/YouTube debate, something new is definitely afoot.

Next week, for the first time, the presidential candidates will engage in a debate in which the questions aren’t delivered by journalists or physically present “regular people.” Instead, they will respond to questions that arrive via the web, uploaded by YouTube users who are equal parts techies and politicos. Vargas' favorite videos — one from a 36-year-old who hopes to be a “future breast cancer survivor,” another from a man discharged from the Army for being gay — point to a refreshing diversity of experience and background among the uploaders.

Every day I go to David Colarusso’s Community Counts site -- which aggregates all of the submitted videos and lets you vote for your favorites -- to keep on top of the submissions (it’s getting harder and harder as more come in). Here a few random videos that recently caught my attention; I like them not because they're flashy (they aren't) or because they're funny (not really), but because they meaningfully engage in a conversation about the future of the country, and as far as I can tell they come from pretty regular folks. Whatever the outcome of these debates, it's encouraging to know that, as of today, over 1500 people have contributed their voices in an effort to make these debates more democratic.

“What will YOU do to protect independent voices in the media?”

Set to a soulful electric piano groove reminiscent of Queen or Steely Dan, and featuring industry-specific quotes, Alan Lastufka asks the candidates what — given postal rate hikes, threats to net neutrality, and media deregulation — they will do to protect independent media.

“Cluster Headache sufferer questions Presidential Candidates”

Anthony Amabile starts the video by telling the camera, “Hello, my name is Anthony Amabile and I suffer from chronic cluster headaches.” A second window suddenly appears in the lower left corner showing Amabile violently suffering from a headache, complete with audio of his moans and exclamations to God to make it stop. Meanwhile, he explains that he cannot get the medicine he needs to make the headaches go away because Medicare and Medicaid don’t pay for it. But you can barely hear him; his moans take over. Get this guy some insurance.

“Religion-Based Discrimination”

Reverend Reggie Longcrier says that "most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and deny women the right to vote, so why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights?”

“Will you grant school districts flexibility under NCLB?”

A schoolteacher pleads for more flexibility with No Child Left Behind, and “if you do not agree with flexibility, what options do we have with No Child Left Behind?”

“Future Drivers Future Voters”

Two future drivers of America and first-time voters cite Brazil’s use of sugar cane as a fuel and want to know “what are your plans to make the U.S. less dependent on non-renewable and foreign sources of fuel.” And they mean it: “we want action now,” they say.

“United States Patriot Act”

A 15-year-old high school sophomore shows off his online research (do I spy Wikipedia?) as he asks Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton why they voted for the Patriot Act.