The virtual path to Washington

2008 candidates will showcase their campaigns on YouTube.

As every election year comes and goes, many people are left with a sense of withdrawal and disconnect from the whole process and the candidates in general. This year, however, thanks to YouTube’s “You Choose ’08” initiative that kicked off in February, voters have the chance to get some virtual one-on-one time with the candidates. The initiative is a great way to draw more voters in by making candidates and their platforms more accessible to the general public.

Currently, candidates are able to showcase their campaigns on YouTube by posting their campaign videos. Viewers, on the other hand, are able to post responses to each candidate’s campaign highlighting their concerns. Candidates from both parties will be contributing to YouTube’s News & Politics site.

The experiment will begin this week with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his video question: “What do you believe is America’s single greatest challenge, and what would you do to address it?”

Following Romney, each candidate will get one week to take part in a video discussion in YouTube’s “You Choose ’08 Spotlight.”

It is the interactive component of the initiative that is commendable. Anytime discussion is initiated between the public and political figures we are experiencing a good thing. Enhanced communication with the public will allow candidates to get a real feel for the issues most important to voters. Furthermore, in such a crowded and crucial election year, the videos give the public a more intimate sense of each candidate.

Of course, there are some potential drawbacks to the initiative. Due to the visual nature of the campaign, one cannot help but fear that more attention will be garnered to a candidate’s appearance and mannerisms, instead of his or her words and ideas. Also, there is the fact that some viewers will respond in jest to the candidate’s videos, and there will be a good amount of simply ridiculous responses floating around.

Nevertheless, if used as a supplement to other election techniques such as debates, the initiative is a great way to use the realm of technology to reach more viewers.