Anyone with an Internet connection could sign into Facebook Monday night and hear how the GOP Young Guns want to move the country forward — and that Eric Cantor is a Wiz Khalifa fan, Paul Ryan favors Aaron Rodgers over Brett Favre, and Kevin McCarthy started a deli, essentially “Subway before there was Subway,” at 19 years old.
Led by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, “Facebook Live” featured a new-media-style discussion with Cantor, the House majority leader, McCarthy, the GOP whip, and Ryan, House Budget Committee chairman. Discussion topics didn’t exactly put the guests in the hot seat, but it gave the three congressmen a new forum to push the kind of engagement they say they’re all about — using new technology and digital products, such as Facebook, to connect with constituents.
Cantor said that compared to what’s going on with social media right now, Congress is stuck somewhere in the 1980s — still sending constituents responses via snail mail and e-mail when they have active Facebook accounts with thousands of commenters. Utilizing Facebook to better communicate with the American people can also help politicians connect directly with voters, without going through the press, he said.
“We have a lot going on in our federal government and debates that aren’t being covered … the mainstream media picks what sells,” Cantor told the crowd. “We also have a lot, a lot of work to do to involve people and their government.”
McCarthy agreed. “It takes the spin out,” he said. “Either you’re here, or you’re not here.”
Cantor then spoke about the recent success of YouCut, an effort to “democratize the system,” and allow the people to vote for what they consider the best options to “reduce the largesse” in Washington.
When the conversation turned to jobs and the next generation’s outlook, Ryan said Congress has to move past “demonizing one another” to get things done. “I look at the Senate as a big country club, and I look at the House as stopping at a truck stop and having breakfast,” he said. “It’s a microcosm where things can happen. If we don’t find a solution to the problem, we can blame each other, but it’s the country that’s going to hurt.”
While the focus is on putting people back to work, part of that effort has to focus on job training, Cantor said. New skills are essential so people can transition into a higher living standard. The “young guns” pointed to Facebook’s innovation as what the country needs to move forward. There needs to be a focus on the individual, a serious look at what the private sector can do to reform regulations that are “tying the hands of small businesses,” they said.
Speaking more broadly, McCarthy talked about returning to what the Founding Fathers valued – a more limited role of government. “We’re at a very precarious time in our country. If we get this wrong, our best days are behind this,” Ryan added. “What I see happening through new media [is] people are taking charge, they’re getting innovative, and they’re going to do something about it. I think we’ll turn this thing around.”