Opinion | Twitch should be political

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s twitch stream was a modern-era act of voter outreach that needs to be replicated.


Katie Goodale

Photo Illustration by Katie Goodale

Peyton Downing, Opinions Editor

This week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed the power that can be leveraged by approaching young voters on their terms. The New Yorker’s tag-team stream with Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was put together in under two days. It’s also the future of political communication.

To summarize briefly, Among Us is a video game released in 2018 that has recently seen a massive surge in popularity. It’s basically a mini mafia where a team of two imposters tries to eliminate the rest of the crew members as they try to complete various tasks around a ship.

While it may seem like a small, inconsequential method of outreach, this is the start of a new wave of Fireside chat-esque events.

Just as President Roosevelt utilized the radio in the ‘30s and ‘40s to connect to the American people, so too are politicians today wising up to the fact that games can be used to connect to the electorate as well.

AOC’s first stream peaked at approximately 439,000 viewers, according to leading esports reporter Rod “Slasher” Breslau. This made the event the third most viewed stream on Twitch.

If these numbers seem underwhelming, allow me to point out the fact that Twitch is still growing massively. Even if this is only several hundred thousand viewers now, recognize that was only concurrent, live viewers — the stream will draw thousands more viewers. 

That’s to say nothing of the fact that the stream was dedicated to getting a demographic that’s rather lacking voter turnout. We often see campaigns fall flat, come off as “cringe,” or otherwise just flat out ignore youth culture. But this was authentic, entertaining, and engaging.

While it may seem like a small, inconsequential method of outreach, this is the start of a new wave of Fireside chat-esque events.

I also want to take a moment to reflect on the fact that in a post-Gamergate world, we had two women of color able to hop onto a “gamer-focused” platform and be openly welcomed. I kept an eye on the chat for abusive behavior, but it was nothing but outpouring support and excitement.

It’s not just Democrats either — Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan joined in the fun off-screen and said he was enjoying watching with his family.

This is absolutely a step in the right direction for demystifying our politicians and giving us a chance to approach them in an open forum.

Imagine for a second — you tuning into a livestream of your local representative talking about what policy proposals they’re interested in bringing up during the next session when the text-to-speech bot comes on and asks a question.

“Congresswoman, what do you think about this [hypothetical provision in some future legislation]?”

Right then and there, your representative would have to give a response off the cuff, unrehearsed, to a live audience that can react to it.

Sen. Joni Ernst’s soybean question went viral — imagine that happening on a much greater scale of frequency.

It also helps to humanize our representatives too. We so often see them as removed from the common, day-to-day parts of our lives. They’re figures above us. They don’t have time for individual concerns.

Being able to see them relax and casually interact with them would be a boon to the public perception of the role of politicians as a whole.

While I don’t condone hero worship or “stanning” of politicians, I think it’s important to recognize them as people because it allows us to talk to them. If playing video games is what it takes for us to be able to connect with our politicians, then I’m all for it.

After all, they’re just people who live among us.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.