History will be made following President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
Stacey Abrams will make history as the first black woman to deliver the official response to the State of the Union for either major party. The progressive Georgia Democrat, who also made history last year as the first ever gubernatorial nominee from a major party, is a great pick to deliver the response as a unifying voice among the party’s many wings and factions.
However, a bit of a controversy has been brewing online surrounding the alternative responses to the State of the Union.
Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris have each announced that they will be delivering their own State of the Union responses via online platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Sanders, a rumored 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has been criticized on social media for trying to “upstage” or “take the spotlight away from” Abrams. Harris, who has officially announced her 2020 presidential run, has also received criticism.
The idea that either politician is trying to take away from Abrams response is ludicrous. Sanders, who explicitly expressed support for Abrams, will be live-streaming on platforms like Facebook and YouTube after the Democratic response has completed. This will be the Vermont Senators third year in a row streaming his own response. Harris will stream her remarks on Facebook Live before Trump even delivers his State of the Union.
Regardless, their critics are wrong. Alternative State of the Union responses should be welcomed. Times are changing, and what Sanders and Harris are doing is the future. The reality is that the State of the Union response is an antiquated concept created by TV networks for ratings.
FDR delivered the first “official” State of the Union address in 1934. In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the first televised evening State of the Union address. Moving the President’s remarks to primetime delivered better TV ratings. So, the following year the television networks extended an invitation to the GOP to deliver their own State of the Union response, the first time such a response was delivered.
Fast forward 53 years later. We now live in a world where anyone can start up their very own live broadcast and stream to millions on YouTube or Facebook. The country is no longer bound to a practice originally created to boost TV ratings. Emerging, often overlooked, voices shouldn’t have to wait for the standard-bearers of the political parties to get with the times — they can open an app, go live, and spread their message whenever they want.
Soon every politician will be live-streaming their own response to the State of the Union, and they should!
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An increasing number of people are getting their news from social media platforms. According to a recent Pew study, 43 percent of Americans get their news from Facebook. YouTube comes in second with 21 percent of Americans following the news from what’s uploaded to the video platform. We’re seeing a huge shift from the old guards of traditional media to platforms where anyone can have a voice. What better way to take your message directly to the people?
Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris need to take advantage of this. Stifling important voices from these platforms will just give people less of a choice on platforms inundated with fake news, conspiracy theories, and dangerous idealogues. Fighting against multiple responses is not only a losing battle — doing so is a detriment to the party.
On Tuesday night, Stacey Abrams will indeed make history tonight when she delivers the official Democratic State of the Union response. Next year, be sure to catch her own personal livestream rebuttal on YouTube and Facebook too.