House Democrats in Tennessee say social media plays role in legislation

Tennessee State Capitol Generic
(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Democrats number barely a quarter of those in the Tennessee House, but they point to social media this year to build their ranks and even influence legislation.

“We have now been using social media to communicate with people all across the state,” House Democrat Caucus Chair Mike Stewart told News 2.

During much of this past session, there were weekly Facebook live chats that included various other House democrats and even some constituents who just wanted to be there.

“We would pretty much answer any question of the week about anything anyone wants to ask under the sun,” added Stewart. “We would often have a thousand people following and many of them would be from places like the Tri-Cities, so if you are a democrat in the Tri-Cities you could email in questions.”

Rep. Mike Stewart (Photo: WKRN)

In some ways, the Facebook Live chats are replacing some of the old ways of a party getting out its message.

Like the House itself, democrats are great outnumbered in places outside of Nashville and Memphis, but using social media like Facebook, democrats think they will reach more non-party members and solidify like-minded people more efficiently and cheaper than traditional methods like flyers or even door-knocking during campaigns.

Democrats may be redoubling their social media efforts after seeing Capitol Hill protests from various groups, organized often in hours, on various bills such as the Defense of Natural Marriage Act or so-called “bathroom bill.”

They were included in a list released Monday of various bills democrats say they helped kill or pass, but Rep. Stewart looks down the road for social media leveling a playing field skewed by what he says is more Republican oriented groups donating to Tennessee GOP lawmakers.

“We have to overcome that disadvantage in money by talking directly to the people and social media allows us to do that,” said the Democrat lawmaker.

How well that is working will get a big test in next year’s House elections.

As for Republicans, there are things they are doing to maintain their supermajority numbers. We’ll look at what they are doing later in the week.