- Democrats are reaching for Instagram Live videos to showcase relatability and connect with potential voters.
- Younger Democratic politicians have captivated users and amassed large followings through Instagram Live videos.
- Other Democrats have experimented with livestreaming, signaling they might be gearing up toward a 2020 presidential run.
WASHINGTON – The hottest new trend among Democrats looking for a bigger spotlight as the 2020 presidential election kicks into gear is Instagram Live, where politicians can speak endlessly and answer questions from their homes.
The young Democrats are all doing it, especially among the wave of new freshmen members of Congress such as New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Potential 2020 presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke is also an avid Instagrammer.
But it is not limited to the younger generation. Even political veterans like Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown have taken to Instagram to chat with followers and supporters.
Brown, 66, has a modest following on Instagram of less than 10,000. Other Democrats, like O’Rourke and Ocasio-Cortez, boast following of 746,000 and 1.6 million, respectively.
Still, each Democrat is using the platform to showcase relatability, whether it is authentic or not.
The 2020 Dem primary is gonna be like a season of Top Chef America pic.twitter.com/cCni8gMC6m
— Ben McDonald (@Bmac0507) January 1, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez often cooks or bakes while discussing priorities and going back and forth with viewers. She responds to critics and addresses her issues with the way Washington works, like when a symposium for freshmen members of Congress featured a number of lobbyists as speaker, which was co-hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.
O’Rourke regularly prepares food or takes his followers on hikes through Texas. Shortly after losing his Senate bid to unseat Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, O’Rourke cooked up a steak, which received fawning coverage among left-leaning publications like ELLE and the Daily Dot.
“During the Senate race, the relentless livestreaming of the candidate’s activities became a feature of his campaign,” wrote Dan Solomon in Texas Monthly. “Supporters could connect with O’Rourke at their leisure, whether it was the mundanities of campaigning or skateboarding.”
O’Rourke took it to the next level by documenting his trip to the dentist, sending Twitter users into a frenzy.
- Screenshot: @BetoORourke on Instagram
The stunt spurred cringes and mockery, even from both critics and supporters of O’Rourke.
“Please don’t do the colonoscopy!” tweeted Republican operative and CNN commentator Doug Heye.
“Love me some Beto but this is self-parody territory,” quipped Ana Marie Cox, a liberal commentator and writer.
And Democrats, especially those looking to court voters as they mull 2020 presidential bids, are trying to emulate the casual and relatable trend that Ocasio-Cortez and O’Rourke have so handily mastered.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren used the platform to recap her announcement that she had launched an exploratory committee to run for president in 2020, as well as preview a swing through Iowa.
“I’m gonna get me … um, a beer,” said Warren during a December 31 Instagram Live video, leaving the camera view only to return with a Michelob Ultra. She also used the livestream to introduced her husband, Bruce Mann.
Warren, whose Instagram account has 1.2 million followers, is currently the most high-profile Democrat officially touring early voting states in pursuit of a presidential bid.
Whether the trend continues will likely depend on its effectiveness. O’Rourke managed to turn Instagram Live sessions into a fixture of his campaign and personal brand. Others, especially those less with different campaign strategies, might struggle to cultivate a strong following with which young Instagram users want to engage.