When done effectively, it breaks down the barriers that may surround a candidate. When it fails, it has the same cringeworthy energy as your dad misquoting a Lizzo song.
Campaigning on social media isn’t new. But at a time when faith in government is low, and the public is generally skeptical of politicians, candidates are trying to distinguish themselves from the political establishment by providing a window into their everyday lives.
“I may be running for office, but I promise I’m not like the others. I’m normal, just like you! Now watch me cook dinner. I’m taking questions on my policy proposals in the comments. Pass the garlic?”
It’s a campaign tactic that aims to help voters answer the question “would you have a beer with them?”— that informal gauge of a candidate’s personality that has become a marker of electability.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) invited her followers to give it a shot on Instagram Live on New Year’s Eve.
“I’m going to get me a beer,” Warren told the online audience just a few hours after she formed her exploratory committee for a 2020 run.
A couple of 2018 midterm candidates found such viral success that it seemed to create a new prerequisite for connecting with potential voters.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) made Instagram chats a staple of her campaign for a seat in the House, as did former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) during his Senate bid. (That campaign failed, but it overperformed in a red state, so Democrats saw O’Rourke’s strategy as a new sort of playbook.)
But the hit-and-miss ratio is vastly different depending on a candidate’s level of mastery in this arena. O’Rourke tried to employ the same moves in his failed presidential run, and things got weird:
While some candidates may have found a way to hack the attention economy to their benefit, for others, it can distract from their overall campaign.
Do you remember the soapbox speech former congressman John Delaney (D-Md.) delivered at the Iowa State Fair in August? Probably not — but you may remember his romp on the big slide:
More Democrats will audition to be your candidate via social media as campaigns gear up for the Iowa caucuses. And while virality may not be a direct reflection of public opinion on the election, likes, retweets and DMs among potential voters are another opportunity for candidates to float their name to the top of your feed.
The luckiest (or unluckiest) of them may just become a meme: