Lincoln-Douglas. NixonKennedy. CNN-YouTube. Tonight, Time Magainze’s person of the Year gets to mark another milestone in political history.

Broadcast live at 7PM EST from Charleston, South Carolina, the first ever CNN/YouTube Debate will feature all eight Democratic presidential candidates from YouTube’s You Choose ’08 platform.

Senator Joe Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Senator Barack Obama, and Governor Bill Richardson will field a handful of the nearly 3,000 video questions submitted by the online community since June 14.

Moderated by Anderson Cooper, the CNN political team will choose “the most creative and compelling videos” to ask the would-be presidents, a filtration process that’s gotten some flack from the press.

Jeff Jarvis of Prezvid (Tilzy.TV page) notes that while CNN is giving some control of the debate “back to us” they should have allowed viewers more say in what questions get selected. David Colarusso has attempted to remedy the problem by creating Community Counts, a page where viewers can vote on whether candidates should “answer” or “ignore” each submission.

However relevant the question may be, it’s doubtful that we’ll hear Cooper present the video that’s received the most votes:

CNN and YouTube have set up a platform that allows Americans unprecedented access to political candidates, yet they still don’t trust the general populous to take the opportunity seriously. “This is the first time that online video gets a seat on the table to help elect a president,” David Bohram, head of CNN’s political team, told the Washington Post. “And we don’t want to let it fall on its face.”

You can’t really blame him.  The absurdity of some of the questions and the fact that we’re involved in an online world where Obama Girl could possibly be considered political discourse indicates that we may in fact need a curator.  At least for now.

Hopefully Bohram, Cooper, and crew will present smart, poignant questions that require smart thoughtful answers.  YouTube could use some political discourse that cuts past the haircuts, Sopranos spoofs, and Macaca moments, and our political process needs something disruptive if we’re going to enact any significant change.

Here’s to the first of hopefully many collaborative, candidate-electorate conversations to come.

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