Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Instagram Live is a way for politicians to answer questions while trying to appear authentic and down-to-earth. They invite you into their kitchens, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. They're drinking beer, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren. They're getting a dental exam, like Beto O'Rourke.

Why it matters: Instagram is the new hotness for politicians trying to communicate with younger voters in an authentic way — but the more they use it, the lamer the content is going to get.

  • Just being on the platform doesn't automatically give veteran politicians the same swag as Beto or AOC (whose "Instagram feed is a master class in political brand building," according to WIRED).

For O'Rourke and Ocasio-Cortez (who combined have over 2 million Instagram followers), Instagram and live-streaming were staples of their 2018 campaigns. Appearing as an "unfiltered" version of yourself on social media is natural for a 29-year-old. It's not so natural for those who look like they could be your parents or grandparents.

  • Hillary Clinton learned that the hard way in 2015 when she used Snapchat to tell her followers that she was "just chillin' in Cedar Rapids." She instantly became a meme.

How they use it: Ocasio-Cortez makes mac and cheese while talking about her progressive platform or addressing her critics. O'Rourke goes to Whataburger or the dentist or plays the air drums in his minivan while discussing politics. People are drawn to their quotidian content because they've already bought into their personalities. The rest haven't exactly mastered it:

  • Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who's 66 and has almost 10,000 Instagram followers, has used the platform to talk directly to voters. Even Sen. Cory Booker tweeted last year that Brown has a "VERY good Instagram." But other than that, he hasn't gotten much attention for his use of social media.
  • Democrat Richard Ojeda, who ran unsuccessfully for a Congressional seat in West Virginia, posted a selfie video to Twitter to confirm the rumors that he's running for president. He didn't really use Instagram for videos during the 2018 elections.
  • Gillibrand baked a berry cobbler on New Year's Eve on Instagram, though she's posted recipes on the platform before. Just this week, John Delaney used Facebook live to answer questions while driving to Iowa. This certainly felt inspired by O'Rourke's minivan trips, but Delaney's video didn't get much love (it had less than 2,000 views).
  • Julian Castro, meanwhile, has gone more of the traditional route, posting produced (not live) videos to Facebook.
  • As one Reddit user wrote: "It’s worth it if we get to see Bernie fussily making goulash while yelling about the Post Office." Sanders (who has 2.9M Instagram followers) mostly posts produced videos on his account.

The bottom line: The future of political discourse is vertically-oriented, always in selfie mode, and probably a little grainy. But just because it's live doesn't mean it's raw. Or any good.

Go deeper

Media prepares to fact check debates in real time

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

From live blogs to video chyrons and tweets, media companies are introducing new ways to fact check the presidential debates in real time this year.

Between the lines: The debates themselves are likely to leave less room for live fact-checking from moderators than a traditional news interview would.

Life after Roe v. Wade

The future seems clear to both parties: The Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade in the next few years, either gradually or in one fell swoop, and the abortion wars will move to a state-by-state battle over freedom and restrictions. 

What's new: Two of the leading activists on opposite sides of the abortion debate outlined for “Axios on HBO” the next frontiers in a post-Roe v. Wade world as the balance on the Supreme Court prepares to shift.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Jerome Powell, Trump's re-election MVP

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Getty Images photos: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP and Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket

President Trump trails Joe Biden in most polls, has generally lower approval ratings and is behind in trust on most issues. Yet polls consistently give him an edge on the economy, which remains a top priority among voters.

Why it matters: If Trump wins re-election, it will largely be because Americans see him as the force rallying a still-strong U.S. economy, a narrative girded by skyrocketing stock prices and consistently climbing U.S. home values — but the man behind booming U.S. asset prices is really Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.