Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Washington Post Previews the Future

Welcome Washington Post readers! If you want to join the movement that is helping to make our presidential debates more "of the people" than ever before, just sign up at the yellow box to the right.

For those who have no idea what that's talking about, Jose Antonio Vargas -- writing at Washington Post's The Trail blog -- summarizes the Open Debate Coalition's progress and gives a preview of the future. Namely, fundamental reform of the Commission on Presidential Debates' top-down model and transition to a bottom-up model that is accountable to the public.

Last week, following the second presidential debate, a broad, bipartisan group of online thinkers and activists called the Open Debate Coalition asked McCain and Obama to help adopt the principles of "open debate." That means people should be allowed to share debate moments on YouTube and other video-sharing sites without being charged as copyright lawbreakers. It also means that bottom-up voting technology should be used to allow people to ask questions of the candidates -- taking some power away from producers and journalists and giving it to everyday voters. In short, an updated and interactive debate format that runs counter to what's been implemented by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) thus far.

To the chagrin of online activists -- including the founders of, and the heads of and -- their principles have taken a backseat. Though Obama and McCain, in letters to the coalition, agreed to the principles, the commission did not adopt them.

MoveOn's Adam Green told The Trail that "2008 will likely be the last year that the Commission on Presidential Debates will exist as we know it. In the future, voters will demand interactions with the candidates that are democratic, transparent and accountable to the public."

Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Forum, said: "Four years from now, the public's use of the Internet to connect with each other and organize around like-minded interests will force the candidates and the debate commission to significantly abandon the limited format of televised debates and move more of the discourse from the scarcity model constraints of TV to the limitless potential and abundance the Internet offers."

"Hopefully," Rasiej added, "comparing the 2012 debates to those of 2008 will be like comparing a 5th generation iPhone to a bullhorn."

Amen! So again, if you want to be part of the movement that makes that happen, be sure to sign up at the yellow form to the right.

If you want to help "Rate The Debates" after tonight's big debate, Free Press has a really innovative project over at (If there's one thing you check out after tonight's debate, that site would be a good one!)

There are two other sites worth checking out, both from Open Debate Coalition partners. Billy Hallowell has a new site and David Colarusso has a great bubble-up voting site at

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