The New Wave: Women in Politics and the Power of Social Media
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It’s not that the rules are changing, but new technology is making it easier for political upstarts to run their campaigns. That’s one element helping a record number of female candidates seeking public office this year.
Getting out your political message is always about money. But a new dynamic is helping fuel first time and often unknown candidates.
“What we learn is that social media can be an incredibly powerful, leveling force. And it can level the playing field for people who heretofore haven’t had a voice in politics and may not have the resources to get their voices heard,” said Brigid Harrison, who teaches political science at Montclair State University.
Debbie Walsh sees this benefiting all newcomers, but especially the new wave of women candidates. There are Facebook groups, Twitter trends and other rapid fire connections.
“I think social media is playing a role in this. I feel there is a connection among women that they just didn’t have in the early 90s. A way of a kind of a constant level of communication that I think will help keep this momentum going,” said Walsh, who heads the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.
Former New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno thinks this is especially important in reaching younger voters.
“Tweeting it, instagramming it and whatever else the newest fad is, it’s all good for millennials. And if they’re brought up in that generation — you saw some of it I think with the shooting quite frankly. They’ve been empowered, the kids understand that they have the power to change outcomes,” Guadagno said.
The Parkland high school students in Florida have shown themselves to be a political force.
“The Parkland incident was a catalyst moment where we saw this surge of youth activism which then inspired more adult activism,” said Mark Barden, who co-founded the gun violence prevention group Sandy Hook Promise after his 7-year old son Daniel was killed in the 2012 Newtown school shooting. “They’re interacting with elected officials and folks at the grassroots level alike. It’s kind of a level playing field, and they are doing some great work and raising awareness like we’ve never seen before.”
The lessons from those students are transferable to politics.
“What happened in Parkland is kind of showing itself as a roadmap for public activism and that it’s not difficult and it’s not as polraizing or divisive as some folks would like you to think it is,” Barden said.
Following the shooting, Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, who became an activist and advocate for gun control, received more Twitter followers than the NRA. Harrison said social media is a powerful tool that can level the playing and create an equal voice among participants.
“At the end of the day for some Congressional candidates they’re going to be able to use social media incredibly adeptly whether they’re male or female and use that as a potential source of power,” Harrison said. “I think it’s disingenous to say that this is how every woman candidate who is running is going to succeed because we have some very traditional women running, we have people running in districts where social media usage is not on par as it is with other places and so it is one tool in the toolbox and I think it’s a really important one particularly young candidates and for young social activists who are mobilizing other people like them but if you’re trying to get the 65-plus vote out in your district maybe Instagram isn’t the best way of doing that.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) thinks this energetic, youth-fueled movement will make a difference.
“We follow their lead or get out of their way. They are moving,” DeLauro said.
Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880 reporter Peter Haskell’s multi-platform series titled “The New Wave: Women in Politics.” See the video piece of this installment here.