About an hour after the US Justice Department announced it brought on former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel
, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah hopped on Twitter to answer questions from his constituents via video.
Mueller is charged with investigating ties between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russian interference in US elections.
It’s an interesting use of social media video, particularly live video, which has been hailed as the next big thing for social media. But it’s also been full of problems. On the one hand, for typical folks, video just isn’t compelling. It’s only interesting if there’s something interesting to watch. On the other extreme are the live videos of people doing horrific things, like torture or murder.
But as the nation sits on pins and needles over the endless drama from the White House these days, Lee’s use of Twitter is an interesting use-case for live video: as a way of being in touch with our representatives.
Now, there’s a caveat to this, of course. Lee has been doing tele-town hall meetings for years pretty much in lieu of in-person town hall meetings.
It’s easy to make an argument that doing online meetings instead of in-person ones is a wrong choice, and an elected official has an obligation to come home and talk to his constituents face-to-face — not through a medium where the politician can control the exchange, answering hand-picked questions. Online meetings like this also mean that politicians don’t have to look people in the eye who would be impacted by their legislation.
But as an additional way to interact with people, particularly immediately after big political news breaks, live social-media video could be a great thing for a democracy. It can give folks a way to ask questions and hear from their representative immediately, seeing their faces and hearing their voice, rather than reading carefully crafted statements.
Here’s the video/tweet of Sen. Lee answering a question about whether he would support impeachment if the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties finds the president guilty of a crime.