Columns / Discourse / February 6, 2013

America Examined: Social media’s role in politics

Social media is here to stay in the world of politics. Obama took Facebook by storm in 2008, and the 2012 election saw record-breaking tweeting during a political event. But why does it have to stop once the election is over?

The White House’s fairly new petition site, is a great example of the government reaching out to the people. While one quick look at the site shows the joking nature of many of the petitions, the idea behind the site is something quite American.

People now have the power to bring items directly to the government’s attention in a modern fashion. The exchange of new ideas is absolutely necessary to keep the government (and its laws) functioning with an evolving society, but a website cannot accomplish this all on its own.

In a climate as politically charged and polarized as the one we have today, the only thing that is going to ensure legislative progress is an open dialogue from the streets all the way to Washington. This sounds like a large problem, but I believe a look into Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency holds the answer.

FDR is praised for many accomplishments of his presidency, but his Fireside Chats often go overlooked.

From 1933-1944, Roosevelt held 30 of these chats through the radio, updating the American people on the goings on in Washington and explaining policy stances, even through the hard times.
Roosevelt’s chats brought him closer to his constituency, but more importantly, those chats got the people of America talking. It was an excellent example for a president to set, and one that I think can be adopted in the modern era with great success.

FDR’s radio broadcasts took full advantage of the radio technology available at the time. With the Internet already being used to petition the government, I simply have to ask the Obama administration to go one step further. In 2008, Obama proved he could utilize technologies in exciting ways to get out the vote, but what is the point if that innovation is only used to win elections?

By utilizing the same social media Obama has relied on for the past two elections, he could rejuvenate the spirit of the Fireside Chats and open the doors to political discourse.

The main issue right now in politics is that no one is willing to talk to people who disagree with them, thus no one’s view point can change. Simply having talks every few months about the reason the president would like to see a bill passed would both give Americans an update from Capitol Hill and actually start conversations about politics in homes and schools, just like Roosevelt did back in the day. With more conversations, there will be more compromise.

Facebook can serve as the perfect entity to host these events. Though many stereotype this site as appealing exclusively to young people, the fact remains that 65 percent of those who use Facebook are 35 or older. Politicians have used this large demographic gathering in the past to reach a wide array of voters, so accepting the idea should not be too difficult.

These talks can enable Americans to see the government in a more personal light and maybe even inspire some actual confidence in the system.

In 2011, only 17 percent of Americans had a positive impression of the federal government. If the president and heads of Congress put even a fraction of their campaigning efforts into maintaining a connection with their constituents, this number would surely go up. With an opportunity to foster a healthier political environment and boost the people’s confidence in the government, a new wave of “Facebook Chats” could really fill the current needs of the American political system.

Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

Tags:  election facebook FDR Internet obama Roosevelt social media twitter

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