Election 2008: A Dozen Sites Open for Political Debate

As has been made very clear by the media, the presidential candidates chosen to represent the two major parties of the United States for the election this November will be spending precious primetime airspace sparring over issues which pollsters of America deem most important to the nation’s people. Those who dislike watching the matches will of course stray to different stations. But millions of others will remain transfixed. And given the social componentry now available to Web users, a large swath of the population - democrats, republicans and independents alike - will undoubtedly continue to toss one-liners and Google-searched investigative research every which way in any and all Internet channels available.

In light of this reality, we figure it is only fitting that we bring to your attention several moderately well-known as well as some relatively obscure websites that focus on all vocal aspects of the political process, from sound bytes to speech in long form and the commentary which accompanies the rhetoric. Sure, you could visit RedState or HuffPost or CNN or Fox News. But there are some places less about the pomp and more about the circumstance worth a mention all the same.

CreateDebate is one example. If offers a quick voting mechanism as well as one for commentary. Many users publish quite detailed summaries of their views on particular topics, which makes for engaging reading and naturally sparks responses from more users as a result. Want to engage a forum that follows politicians’ one-liners with more extensive commentary to the affirmative or the negative (or perhaps neutral standing)? CreateDebate is well worth the cost of entry: free. We wrote about the website back in April, and gave it considerable praise then. It turns out the review was warranted.

Another service, whereIstand, offers a similarly polished experience as that of CreateDebate, albeit with a different format. Navigation might take some getting used to, but it’s reasonably well-featured to accommodate opinionmaking among the membership. Just to note, it’s football season in the collegiate and professional leagues, so there are quite a few opinions sitting among the frontrunners which focus on the game. But the floor is open to all, as they say, so express yourself if you wish - for whatever reason.

At first MyGuesstimate may not strike you as a world-class forum. And that’s because it isn’t. We first reviewed the joint exactly one week ago, and while it has grown a bit, it hasn’t flourished. Still, the structure of it allows for a good amount of discussion. Post questions with answers, and see where the community takes it. Comments are allow, too, so talk doesn’t end with the click of a button. Its simplicity and user networking aspects are what I enjoy most.

Disregard for a moment my initial bout of sarcasm when mentioning the pollster establishment. This next one, appropriately enough, is called Pollster.com. It essentially provides an interactive map displaying the 50 American states with a rough gauge on the consensus view on both major presidential candidates, Barack Obama (D) and John McCain (R). The utility of this service is limited, as you’ll see. But perhaps a weekly or bi-weekly visit couldn’t hurt. The latest poll results fall around the last few weeks of August, so the numbers are fairly current. If you’re one to take regional, state-by-state, or national polls into consideration when writing your ballot red, white, or blue, this is one place to bookmark.

Meanwhile, if you’re an all-around political junkie, RealClearPolitics covers the news, the numbers, and a fair amount of public discourse as well. Want a resource that scopes virtually every relevant and semi-relevant vantage in the quadrennial chess game currently underway? You can do far worse than RealClearPolitics.

I should say that I trawled the Web for quite some time before arriving at We Op-Ed. And I’m not sorry I did. Well-design and equally accommodating of both original thought and user commentary, with videos debates and a fairly active community holding it all together, We Op-Ed should be far more busy in the way of conversation than it is today. It is arguably one of the best destinations among those listed here. If the mainstream media isn’t doing it for you, We Op-Ed probably will.

Perhaps you’re interested in a quick view of the top candidates’ political leanings. Their voting records, their statements. All that fun stuff. If you need to keep informed to keep your online conversations teeming with data, ProCon.org is a kind of one-stop shop. You won’t find everything, of course. But you’ll likely find enough fodder to trigger posts on forums elsewhere.

Analysts of the election underway have made it very clear that youth involvement is the highest it’s been in years. That is especially true for those of voting age, but even citizens that will be below the 18-year threshold come November have places to dish their positions. Youth Noise is one interesting venue. It covers multiple topics outside of politics, but has also reserved a spot for those watching the race.

For those in the academic world, there are also sites like Debate Central and iDebate to serve as information centers for student debaters. As the fall semester commences in the next couple of weeks in many parts of the country, these destinations will likely be visited with great frequency. Get better prepared to play warring parties in front of your classmates.

ForandAgainst.com takes us back to original debate site premise given to this collection, but its topics are hugely diverse. That is to its benefit, but not for politicos. Miscellany reigns supreme. You can of course present political discourse if you like, but it’s open to question whether such material will rise to the fore. Science and philosophy share a spot at the top of the ladder, it seems.

Now, in the event that none of the sites presented here make the grade, or don’t offer a enough of a fly-on-the-wall take on odd political jibber-jabber, there is a wildcard that may well grab your eye. A Twitter-Google Maps mashup, developed by Michael Geary, involves Twitter, Twittervision, and the ever industrious Google Maps API. Of course, watching it go can get tiresome. The blogging can get very redundant very fast. Nonetheless, the choice to be an observer with a bird’s-eye view is entirely yours.

Finally, how about a look at the Google Books upload of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. A total 423 pages, front to back. Something to inspire? Stir that nostalgia? Maybe rehash some of the matters at hand back in the day?

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