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TikTok’s Favorite Politician

Published on April 18, 2023, at 10:58 a.m.

by Ginger Morrow.

Amidst U.S. congressional hearings weighing a TikTok shutdown, one person in the officials’ rank is using the app to unique success. In just under two years, his voice has grown beyond the borders of his district to national and international online audiences.

Via Jeff Jackson for Congress

Rep. Jeff Jackson is a freshman House member. He assumed office on Jan. 3 after having served in the North Carolina Senate and making one unsuccessful bid at a seat in the United States Senate. While he represents 730,000 people in his work on Capitol Hill, his TikTok views amount to almost 63 million, proving that there are no small offices — only small politicians.

Jackson’s biggest online hit to date is a recent late-night, loungewear-clad update regarding Congressional response to the Silicon Valley Bank collapse. Focused in front of a stabilized camera, he offered a 2 1/2-minute, simple explanation of the origins and possible outcomes of the collapse and a recollection of the meeting he attended some time earlier with fellow elected officials to address it.

That’s it. That video alone received 25.8 million views and counting.

And all the rest of his videos since taking office have been just as simple. Jackson did experiment early with other styles of videos, trying popular sounds, trends, and filters, but removing those bells and whistles decidedly distinguishes him from other creators. The camera and audio quality, lack of music, and composed demeanor of the subject create a professional, focused feeling that cuts through the noise of the “For You” page.

Other appealing aspects to his videos are their themes. TikTok rewards posts that show authentic spontaneity or vulnerability and intimate glimpses into offbeat experiences and lifestyles. Since Jackson’s election, his posts have usually taken on a “day in my life” or “behind the scenes” feel, which are both independently popular categories on the app. Other popular, recent videos demonstrated a commitment to transparency by discussing personal finances and unfounded bias toward fellow members of Congress. The thousands of comments on each post range from expressions of admiration to requests for a presidential bid.

Via Jeff Jackson for Congress

Perhaps the most appealing part of the weekly uploads is what they don’t include. Jackson does discuss government and legislative issues, but he does so in a largely apolitical way. Viewers aren’t likely to know his party affiliation without scrolling back to his pre-election promotional posts. In a world where everything from your chocolate to your pillow advertently or inadvertently communicates a policy preference, Jackson’s just-the-facts discussion of important votes and headlines is refreshing.

Politicians’ attempts at political communications with educational or bipartisan sentiment often feel like drawn, drippy campaign advertisements with the speakers propping themselves nobly atop the bow of the boat crossing the Delaware. Jackson’s work, though, is not self-aggrandizing or inauthentic. He has found a winning formula for speaking to Americans how they like to be spoken to while addressing political apathy, and I hope he sticks to it.

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