Why don’t Republicans understand the value of technology in political campaigns?

CNN YouTube Republican Debate 2008We’ve mentioned the divide between Democrats and Republicans in the use of campaign technology before.

Earlier this week, the Democratic presidential candidates participated in the first CNN/YouTube debate. Though not perfect, it was broadly seen as a successful melding of the traditional debate format with a new, more engaging, citizen-produced question format. Today the blogosphere is abuzz with news that only two (Ron Paul and John McCain) of the nine Republican presidential candidates have so far agreed to participate in the next CNN/YouTube debate scheduled for September.

From the Washington Post:

“In an interview Wednesday with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Romney said he’s not a fan of the CNN/YouTube format. Referring to the video of a snowman asking the Democratic candidates about global warming, Romney quipped, ‘I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman.'”

From the New York Times:

“So, today, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani seemed rather reluctant to attend. A spokeswoman, Katie Levinson, told The Times’s Marc Santora that the campaign had a likely scheduling conflict on that date.”

I’m happy to grant that some of the videos in the first debate were silly. Most of them, however, were quite earnest. And why can’t a debate have a little levity? We certainly don’t need more debates like the one where the Republican candidates were given hypothetical scenarios out of “24” and had to tell us how they would be the best candidate to torture a confession out of a terrorist. There’s certainly a middle ground – of actually issue discussion – between snowman YouTube videos and Jack Bauer torture scenes, but that doesn’t give much of an excuse for the candidates failing to adapt to this new era of political campaign technology.

User-generated content and citizen participation in the creation of political dialogue should not be partisan. If it remains so, the Republicans are going to have a harder time than normal attracting young people to their side next year.

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