OPINION: A picture is worth a thousand votes


Columnist James Bassett poses for a photo with Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. Bassett says that the gesture of taking photos with people does a lot for a politician's campaign. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Some say it’s the big dollar donors. Others say it’s the performance on the debate stage. I say it’s the selfie. Winning votes doesn’t necessarily require stellar town hall meetings or major news network airtime. It requires a personal connection with voters, which is sealed with the snap of a selfie.

I attended Elizabeth Warren's MSNBC town hall with Chris Hayes in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the dynamic and clearly passionate senator gave her pitch for a cleaner economy and wealth tax to a group of Democrat, Republican and independent voters.

The policy was structurally sound, skillfully crafted and modernized to meet the needs of today and the desires of tomorrow. But it wasn’t the policy or even Elizabeth Warren herself that crystallized my vote for Warren in 2020. It was the selfie I snapped with her in the selfie line at the conclusion of the MSNBC town hall.

Upwards of 150 guests sat patiently in their seats at the end of the town hall production until they were dismissed to stand in the selfie line to catch that special moment with the senator. I took my place in the line, approached Warren, shook her hand and smiled for the camera.

In a world where social media plays such a dominant role in everyday life, it would be a shame not to post that photo on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and even LinkedIn. That’s exactly what I did, and I wasn’t alone. Scrolling through social media, I saw hundreds of similar photos of smiling voters standing side-by-side with Warren.

These images win elections, as they illustrate the personal connection held by Warren and each individual voter. Her personality shines in each unique selfie, brighter than the flash of the camera.

The selfie lines at Warren’s campaign stops are not organically occurring. The skillful use of the selfie to build personal connections with individual voters is a tactic used by the campaign to garner support for the grassroots movement.

An article authored by CNN correspondent MJ Lee noted Warren spent over 26 hours snapping selfies with voters in selfie lines across the country. While the lines have been dubbed selfie lines, the fact Warren staffers take the photo of the voter with Warren highlights the use of the line as an organized vote-garnering machine.

Hours spent speaking with these voters in the selfie line, having one-on-one conversations with them and giving them a keepsake to treasure forever is a political magic trick that Warren has used to her advantage.

The 2020 Democratic Primary will not be won through fundraising or postage mailers. This election will be won through Warren’s selfie line. Having the chance to stand in the line myself was an experience unrivaled by anything I’ve had the chance of doing before. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that either.  It is the common bond I share with Warren—a simple photo snapped in a crowded room following a town hall—that will guide my hand as I fill in the box next to Warren’s name on Primary Day 2020.

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