It did not take too many steps into the 2008 presidential election to see that statement proven undoubtedly true. From blogs and fundraising to cellphones, MySpace and Twitter, technology has transformed the political process. Of the new tools, YouTube has had perhaps the most surprising influence on politics. Everyone remembers Paris, the snowman, the announcement, the girl and the hair, making 2008 a YouTube election, without doubt.
My favorite video of the 2008 presidential cycle is the address Barack Obama delivered on race in America, aka “Obama’s race speech” in YouTube lingo. This video is not funny, not catchy and contains no “gotcha” moment, and that’s why it’s my favorite. It is real and it demonstrates the positive impact technology can have on the political process.
Just one week after Obama delivered his 37-minute speech on race, close to 4 million people had watched it on the campaign’s official YouTube channel, and another 520,000 people watched excerpts of the speech uploaded on YouTube. TechPresident noted the total YouTube viewers for the speech that week beat all the cable TV channels combined. To date, the speech has been viewed more than six million times, making it one of, if not the, most popular political videos ever.
In these uncertain times voters want accurate information and a full characterization of candidates. Now, through YouTube, they can get it. Arianna Huffington theorized on Huffington Post recently that the Internet has brought an end to the “Rovian” politics of the past:
The Internet has enabled the public to get to know candidates in a much fuller and more intimate way than in the old days (i.e. four years ago), when voters got to know them largely through 30-second campaign ads and quick sound bites chosen by TV news producers.
YouTube hits like “Obama Girl” and “gotcha” moments like George Allen’s “macaca” really only gain storm if the mainstream media catches on and covers them. YouTube videos like “Obama’s race speech” are powers in their own right. They give candidates the power to bypass the media to portray a fuller picture of themselves to voters, and they allow voters to seek information and draw their own conclusions so when they step in the ballot box they are empowered to make informed, independent decisions.
A win-win situation, indeed.