Young RNC delegates embrace technology to build political power

RNC delegate Jack Pickett, 18, of Washington calls technology "absolutely vital" to future political success.  (Photo: Chance Seales)
RNC delegate Jack Pickett, 18, of Washington calls technology "absolutely vital" to future political success. (Photo: Chance Seales) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

Chance Seales, Media General National Correspondent – CLEVELAND, OHIO (MEDIA GENERAL)—The Grand Old Party isn't known for being particularly young or progressive, but a new crop of conservatives is turning the political process on its head through technology.

On the floor of the RNC in Cleveland, Ohio, young faces are sprinkled throughout the sea of gray hair.


They share the same enthusiasm as older Republicans, but employ an entirely new method of spreading their ideology.

"I think young people rely almost entirely on Twitter and Snapchat and all of that for their news," says Jack Pickett, 18, of Wash.

Wearing a white, "RNC 2016" hat embellished with a red elephant, Pickett explains that his approach to building political power is anything but starchy.

Pickett is sure that creating shareable content that sizzles "is absolutely vital" to capturing new voters.

With millennial users, speed is also key.

"We're a generation that wants information in our hands quickly," Kera Birkeland, 33, of Utah, says.

And when it's a fellow young person sharing that information, Birkeland argues, the material becomes more marketable. "If we are more positive and share more goodness and share more facts, we could see it be a positive change."

It's that sort of forward movement that motivates Matt Mahan, the CEO and founder of Brigade.

Unlike most start-ups, Silicon Valley-based Brigade focuses more on building political consensus than banking sky-high profits.

His team connects people of similar ideologies, allowing them to function as a single unit to effect meaningful change.

"I think technology is going to make very explicit what people think," says Mahan. It's an "opportunity to create a more pragmatic politics where our representatives are rewarded for passing legislation that feels like common sense, and where it becomes okay to compromise again."

Compromise is a far cry from the climate we find ourselves in today.


As for the current state of Washington gridlock, Mahan sees the tech revolution as a "chance to blow that model up and show just how many voters want to see some positive, constructive—even if it means compromising—legislation."

Older politicos are beginning to log on and speak out, following the trend set by millennials.

"All of these people in this room are now finding out about social media, and they're more vocal, especially the conservatives," notes Chris Ford, 24, of Dallas. "So they're sharing their views, they're getting involved in groups."

Seven years ago, similar groups helped Samuel Ledoux, 24, who represented his state during Tuesday evening's roll call vote, get his foot in the electoral door.

"If it wasn't for a Facebook group, I wouldn't have found out about my county party or New Mexico party, and that was back in 2009 or 2010," Ledoux said.

Young people are certain that type of track record shows the durable nature of tech's political ascendance.

18-year-old Pickett asserts, "This isn't frivolous. This isn't a fad. It's here to say," before turning back to roar for the evening's next RNC speaker.

Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales