The World of Politics is Changing And Conservatives Must Keep Up
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It’s no secret and is practically a cliché that technology rules in this day in age, and the realm of politics is not an exception. During the 2018 midterm campaigns, use of social media by political candidates absolutely exploded. Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke quickly became Twitter’s sweetheart, and since her election, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has expertly utilized Instagram stories to reach out to her constituents.
O’Rourke and Ocasio-Cortez have something else in common: they’re both Democrats. This isn’t to say that zero Republicans understand how to utilize social media – just look at how Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) has managed his online persona since his initial Saturday Night Live appearance – but Democrats, in general, are doing it better.
Conservatives have to keep up if they want to have success in 2019. Social media, when used for politics, is a skill. Having an expertly-crafted presence on Twitter or Instagram makes candidates and officials more relatable. The President has utilized this trend to reach out to his base since his campaigning days. Even though seeming relatable has nothing to do with policy, an area on which many Republicans rightfully put a lot of emphasis, relatability is an essential aspect of politics.
Take former Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) for example. His office’s Twitter account, @senorrinhatch, posted photo-shopped memes of Hatch at the signing of the Declaration of Independence and constantly made jokes about the Senator’s age. It may seem silly and irrelevant, but these simple messages painted Orrin Hatch as a funny, relatable guy who, despite being the longest-tenured Republican Senator, didn’t take himself too seriously. We want to take officials seriously – they’re our governmental representatives after all – but there’s something refreshing about people who are important but doesn’t consider themselves important.
As mentioned before, Republicans’ emphasis is mostly on policy, which makes sense. At the end of the day, a politician’s job is to make or promote policy, after all. But, we live in a world in which dry facts just aren’t enough to sway voters. Politics has always been an emotional realm, and with information about policy and elected officials constantly bombarding us, we crave something more: reliability. Sure, lower taxes sound good, but who’s proposing them? It’s only human to want to connect an idea with a face.
Social media has made politicians more visible and accessible. Before Twitter, you had to call an elected official’s office and complain to a staffer, which of course, people still do. Now, if you have a gripe – or rarely, a compliment – all you have to do to get your feelings out is hit “send” on a tweet. Now that politicians are seemingly right there at our fingertips, we expect more from them. We expect them to be more and more visible. We expect them to seem like our neighbors, and when they don’t, we can make them into larger-than-life monsters who are out to ruin the country.
The idea of public image was not born with the invention of social media, but it has absolutely been affected. For conservatives to ignore this development would be a mistake.
Karly Matthews is a student at Temple University, where she is majoring in political science and journalism while minoring in Spanish. At any given moment, Karly can be found talking about Marco Rubio and advocating for conservative values with a large coffee mug and color-coded planner in hand.
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