A few minutes into Monday night’s CNN/You Tube debate at the Citadel Military Academy in South Carolina, Senator Barack Obama said, "I believe in the core decency of the American people…"
After tonight’s debate, I’d add that I believe not only in the decency but also in the creativity, caring, informed, sometimes zany sense of humor and street smarts of the people who sent in close to 3000 video-questions.
I’ve always believed that any politics, whether liberal or "modern progressive" (a term Senator Hillary Clinton coined tonight–what’s wrong with liberal, Senator?) is dead on arrival if it ignores, shafts or blames the people. And Monday night, (and who cares if it originated as a gimmick of marketing and synergy) CNN/You Tube gave voice to people.
There were Mary & Jen from Brooklyn, New York, on gay marriage; Reverend Longcrier from Hickory, North Carolina, on religion and equality before the law; a spirited snowman from Minneapolis, Minnesota, on global warming; Morgan of Atlanta, Georgia, asking if the response to Hurricane Katrina would have been different if a mostly white city had been hit; Melissa of San Luis Obispo, California wondering why can she order the same caffe latte macchiato with whipped cream in every state of the union but we don’t have standarizing voting systems?
There were people from around the country asking about a way out of Iraq–a mother whose son has been deployed twice, a father who has lost his son. The first question when it came to international politics had to do with how we end the killing in Darfur? (Governor Richardson’s answer revealed his skills as a caring and roving diplomat. Hell, anyone who argues for a permanent UN peacekeeping force to prevent war and genocide deserves praise.) There was an Alzheimers patient, a daughter describing her mother’s suffering from diabetes, a breast cancer survivor –all spoke directly into the camera about their raw experiences with a crumbling health care system.
And how many inside-the-beltway pundit/questioners have ever bothered to ask the candidates about what they think of reparations for slavery? Education made a rare appearance in the debates in an edgy and clever video about the No Child Left Behind Act–moving Richardson to his scrappy and straight reply–"scrap it"–which brought the house (well, the Citadel military academy) down.
John Edwards’ campaign video, scored to the iconic ’60s rock opera "Hair" theme song was a classic. Using self-deprecating humor to bring attention to "what really matters" is always a smart idea. And as Frankgrits put it, posting a comment on my blog,Edwards–replying to a question about race and gender, had one of the best lines of the night–"Anyone who won’t vote for Hillary because she’s a woman or Obama because he’s black, don’t bother voting for me. I don’t want your vote."
As FrankGrits says, that effectively relegated "sexists and racists to the garbage heap where they belong." Now,I don’t really care if Joe Biden scored well on those Clockwork Orange people-meter readings CNN used to gauge instant reactions to the debates. What’s heartening and hopeful is that tonight marked the end of debates as we’ve known them. Let the peoples’ voices be heard.