H. Alexander Robinson

America Finally Spoke Up in Last Night’s Debate

Filed By H. Alexander Robinson | July 24, 2007 12:44 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: CNN, Democrats, gay rights, God, guns, Iraq, media, NAACP

The everyday American finally had a chance to weigh in on the presidential race last night in the CNN/YouTube debate. The new age, techno-savvy format allowed videos from everyday citizens to play across a massive screen giving candidates only 1 minute- 30 seconds to respond.

The questions asked were refreshingly honest, blunt, and often times personal. It appears that the American people are just as concerned with the war in Iraq as they are with the personalities of the presidential candidates in understanding what exactly makes them tick.

I had actually seen the candidates in this format before in the NAACP’s presidential forum during its’ 98th Convention—but the questioners were convention attendees so it was refreshing to see it in prime time.

Sen. Barack Obama was asked the perennial question, if he thought he was black enough to which he replied: “You know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan -- in the past, I think I've given my credentials.”

Sen. Hillary Clinton was asked if she was feminine enough to run for president to which she replied: “I couldn’t run as anything other than a woman.”

Former Sen. John Edwards actually challenged Sen. Clinton promoting himself as the best advocate for women stating: “I have the strongest boldest ideas [for women].”

The mood of the debate was also comical in nature. The candidates appeared more at ease with one another versus at war with each other. Their smiles were bountiful and so were the jokes. However it was the online users, those who took the time to record a video message about their lives and then pose a question as a voter that truly stole the evening.

Questions included one from a father who lost a son in Iraq and wondered if he would lose another one; a gay couple asked why they shouldn't be allowed to marry; and a woman stricken with breast cancer asked if her chance of survival would be better if she had health insurance.

While the format offered an opportunity for questions to be asked a different a way, the topics that still dominated the evening were “God, Guns and Gays,” typical questions and topics that CNN would ask and highlight as part of its daily diet of news items.

As co-sponsor of the event, CNN selected 39 questions of literally thousands submitted. Many of the video questions that were uploaded on YouTube dealt with other pressing social issues such as thoughtful questions about immigration, challenging questions about our criminal justice system and our nation’s rush to incarcerate. Other profound and probative questions dealt with race relations, farm policy, education, and the challenges facing our nation’s rural populations and many more pertinent issues that do not often get front page, prime time news coverage or CNN focus.

Still the media continues to set the tone of the language of America as regimented by the standards of a few who control the purse strings of giant communications conglomerates. From the gobbling up of newspapers and networks by one man or the pre-selection of questions for a presidential debate, the full American story has not yet been told.

Hence it is imperative that we all take part of the presidential conversation using every resource at our disposable, most notably the internet and its blogging capabilities and all the power that it holds. If you have an opportunity to attend a presidential forum or any political debate I encourage you to do so. And don’t be shy about asking the tough questions about the issues that matter most to you and your family.


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Now we have the opportunity to raise issues of LGBT civil rights with the Republican presidential candidates who will have their version of the CNN/YouTube debate on September 17th. It would be great to see video questions that ask specifically why Republicans are not more supportive of the LGBT issues.