4 February 2008
By Debbie Saslaw
Once upon a time during freshman year, I considered coupling my BFA in Film & Television with something a bit more useful, like a minor in politics. Though I’m no history aficionado, I’ve always been interested in our country’s convoluted voting process. When people blamed Al Gore’s loss on “hanging chads” in Florida, I wondered how it was possible for a country to elect its president by the electoral college rather than voter preference. But four years at Tisch have turned my brain into spin-art, and I learned more about Marcel Duchamp’s urinal than I did about the about Libertarian externalities. On the morning of Super Tuesday, my body tingles in the same way it does when the Red Sox start winning post-season games in October. Unfortunately, I am embarrassed to admit that I only follow politics when things start to get exciting.
I am just as embarrassed to admit that most of my information about the upcoming primary came from YouTube clips. I have crammed months of candidate research into a three day span of video blogs and speeches from the campaign trail. People live and breathe election coverage, but I choose to add clips to my queue so I can watch them while my iPod is charging. For some reason, I don’t feel too guilty about this. The point is that people should not walk blindly into the voting booths. Whether you’re reading Maureen Dowd’s editorials in The New York Times or watching tyrant Chris Matthews yell aimlessly on Hardball, you’re processing information and making an informed decision. And let’s face it: a lot of Americans don’t like to read. We all like to be entertained, and sometimes the intense around-the-clock coverage of the Iowa caucus is more exciting than a well written press release.
While the role of videos on the internet was once relegated to circulating some funny clips of Howard Dean’s painful battle cry, YouTube has turned internet media into a relevant source information. One of the first debates in late November let Americans upload their questions onto YouTube and have candidates answer live on CNN. Though most of these questions were tongue-in-cheek, it made politics a bit more tangible. Besides, it was a step up from watching reruns of Jon Stewart and a White House-bound Stephen Colbert.
If you have the chance, you can go back in time to Senator Clinton’s re-election campaign and see how her platform has changed now that she has to cater to a wider audience. If you are not a complete loser like I am, you can type in “Hillary Clinton” and decide if her most recent policies apply to you. Either way, you are listening to the opinions of the candidates themselves. We all question whether or not these opinions are heartfelt and trustworthy, but this new method of communication is more legitimate than listening to some shmuck water down the issues on Fox News.
The downside of this is that if you type in “Obama” in YouTube’s search bar, the top hits are videos like “I Have A Crush on Obama” and a Letterman Top Ten List. Clearly, a girl dancing in a bikini next to a shirtless Barack isn’t going to get him on the ballot next November. We all love a good viral video song, and we get excited when Hillary Clinton endorses pop culture by mocking the last scene in The Sopranos. Political comedy has generated more momentum than kissing babies ever could. And if it gets more people to the polls, satire can’t be all that bad.
If you’re looking for something a bit more inspirational than Huckabee Girl (”Ridin’ on a dinosaur, you and me/Everyday is like Christmas with Mike Huckabee!”), check out this star-studded clip. I usually think celebrity endorsements are irrelevent in political campaigns, but I get chills from the “Yes We Can” video made by Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas. It is cheesier than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, but the lyrics to the song are lifted from a truly epic speech and its full text can be found in the sidebar. No matter what you’re watching (or reading, hopefully) please, please, please vote today.