Analysis: Third party candidates stage own Internet debate, run into technical glitches along the way

Grae Stafford | Freelance Photographer

Running for president of the United States isn’t easy. Just ask Rick Perry. Presidential debates aren’t easy, either — just ask Barack Obama. Even for a candidate overflowing with campaign funds, the wheels can still come off the wagon at the last minute, and presidential dreams can fade faster than Vanilla Ice’s career.

So what can an under-funded but passionate candidate do, after being excluded from the nationally televised presidential debates? Why, harness the power of the Internet, of course. Why have a town hall, when you can have a “Virtual Town Hall?”

Anyone can hold a Google “Hangout” with a huge audience, courtesy of social networking technology from Google. Anyone, anywhere, can join in. They don’t even need a computer — a typical smartphone will do.

On Thursday night, that’s exactly what happened. Green Party candidate Jill Stein in Seattle Washington and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in Laramie, Wyoming went head to head, live on the internet, to fight for America’s votes.

…or, at least, that was the plan.

The results were somewhat different. The debate lasted an hour. Questions were supplied by participants, minus any sickly sweet Candy [Crowley] Land spin. Energy policy, foreign policy and the role of government in the economy were all on the menu.

To say the debate encountered “some” technical difficulties would be like saying that Apple has sold “some” iPhones. Johnson kept disappearing from the Hangout like a Muggle at Hogwarts who has yet to figure out which end of his wand is the one that makes stuff vanish. If ever there was a case to be made for blanketing the nation in high speed internet, Gary Johnson made it last night.

Jill Stein promptly became confused by the function of the mute button, and whilst it was obvious that she is passionate about her positions, it was obvious in a 1920’s silent film way. If she doesn’t win the presidency, Stein can always give Verizon a call and see if they need a new “Can you hear me now” person in their ads.

America is the land of free speech, and this reporter for one applauds the embracing of the “Virtual” concept, as well as the sheer grit and determination of candidates willing to run against tremendous odds for what they believe in. Johnson and Stein gave the voices of the people they represent a chance to be heard in this election season. For that alone they deserve credit.

But if these candidates want their ideas to be taken seriously, they need to stop acting like underdogs. Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

How about now?

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