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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Transparency from our politicians should not be a luxury

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DTH Photo Illustration. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C. 14th) using his TikTok platform to advertise his campaign and inform viewers about politics.

I spend too much time on TikTok.

I lose track of time scrolling through 15 second videos are often not useful. My “For You" page consists of light-hearted and informal videos from a younger age demographic. One of the last things I would expect to see is a comprehensive video from a representative from my state. 

But that’s exactly what Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C. 14th) is doing. And it’s getting everyone’s attention.

Jackson represents parts of Mecklenburg and Gaston county in the U.S. House of Representatives. Following his victory in the 2022 midterm election, the representative began posting videos on TikTok that informed his constituents of his new experiences and responsibilities.

“I want to give you something we don’t see too often: a real-time, first-person account of being a freshman member of Congress,” Jackson said in his first TikTok after being elected. “I think sharing that perspective is important because transparency is important.” 

He continued the video by breaking down the procedure of being elected to Congress, including his trip to Washington, committee selection process, interaction with other members of Congress and adjustment to the demands of his new career.

Jackson had used the social media site during his campaign, but his account really started to gain traction after his election, with most of his videos surpassing one million views.

Since then, Jackson has uploaded a video covering the most pressing issue of the week in Capitol Hill. Although the topics vary weekly, Jackson’s format remains the same, beginning with a summary bringing viewers up to speed and ending with possible solutions for that policy problem. In doing this, he is breaking down barriers that had long separated constituents from their representatives.

While Jackson has only been in office since January, he’s had many noteworthy topics to cover, starting with his swearing in. During the chaotic and historic 15 rounds of voting to elect a Speaker of the House, Jackson posted a video describing the frustrating situation. 

“Speaker fights are very rare,” he said in a TikTok. “The last one was one hundred years ago.”

Jackson continued his weekly posting schedule, covering topics including China’s relationship with Taiwan, the war in Ukraine and the national debt ceiling. While some of these topics are complex, especially for those who do not regularly keep up with current events, Jackson’s videos are comprehensible for anyone, regardless of their political fluency. 

The accessibility of his videos has essentially made Jackson the politician of TikTok, his posts reaching an audience much wider than the district he represents. In his most viral video with nover 29 million views, Jackson broke down the situation with Silicon Valley Bank in March and assured viewers that the federal government, while avoiding using taxpayer money, was taking extraordinary steps to stop it. 

“Right now, every step being taken has one purpose: to make sure this domino effect stops now,” he said in a TikTok about the potential bank panic. 

The video was met with overwhelming praise, with many users commenting on the video’s informative, nonpartisan and accessible format.

What Jeff Jackson is doing here matters. 

For one, it’s increasing political engagement by reaching millions of Americans through the most dowloaded app in the world. As much as political news is available to the average American, many do not seek it out. Jeff Jackson is able to reach his constituents and more on a free app that most people already have downloaded. 

For many people, it’s much more ideal to watch a two-minute video explaining what’s happening in Congress on your smartphone than to spend an hour watching C-SPAN just to leave with little clarity. Jackson’s TikToks are free of political jargon that would create a barrier for understanding and anything that would confuse the average constituent he is sure to define.

A weekly two-minute video doesn’t seem like much, but it’s already garnering conversations across the app. Many Americans have never experienced this level of transparency and initiative from their representatives. 

Through this simple but effective form of communication, Jackson is demonstrating how social media can help bridge the gap between elected officials and their constituents. Without this clear effort of communication, our representatives seem incredibly distant, requiring a blind faith from voters that their representatives are doing the right thing.

As an app dominated by young people, the increased engagement in political topics can generate interest among the most inactive voters. When Jackson proves weekly that he cares about his constituents, it makes voters more hopeful that their representative will listen to their concerns and actually have their best interests in mind when making decisions. Voter apathy is a detriment to politics that simple actions of transparency and outreach can mitigate.

Jackson’s videos are a great contribution to political transparency, but it shouldn’t stop at this. We need more elected officials to show this kind of initiative to interact with their constituents. 

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It should not be a luxury to feel like we know the person we trust to speak and vote on our behalf. Now it’s up to other politicians to follow this model and give their constituents the transparency they deserve.

@mbnobles_

opinion@dailytarheel.com