Hey, Jeb and Hillary, "Selfies" Doesn't Mean Self-Absorbed

Don't confuse selfie with selfish.

Most older people look at millennials with their penchant for taking pictures of themselves and assume that the young are far too self-absorbed to care about anything beyond their Facebook timeline.

Kristen Soltis Anderson, a millennial, a pollster, a conservative, and the author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials are Leading America (and How Republicans Can Keep Up), begs to differ.

"Millennials are certainly cynical," she says. "But they're also extremely idealistic. They want to find a candidate they can believe in."

The Republicans, she writes in her book, published this month by Harper Collins, aren't doing them any favors.

Traditional campaigns focus on TV ads and ringing doorbells.

But doing so ignores the main ways by which millennials can be addressed--Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest.

As a result, there's a growing disconnect between political parties and young voters whom they so desperately need.

In The Selfie Vote, Anderson offers a portrait of her fellow millennials at odds with the common belief that twenty-somethings really only care about themselves.

In fact, they care deeply about social issues, the environment, the economy, and big-picture issues that dictate the future of where our nation is headed.

Anderson writes that millennials, like the generations preceding them, make up their minds in their late teens and twenties about their political affiliation.

Once they've made that decision, they're not likely to shift from it over the course of their lives.

So Republicans, Anderson's primary audience, are placing at risk not just the results of the 2016 presidential election but every election for the next fifty years.


Because they're simply too lazy, self-absorbed, or stuck in traditional thinking to give social media--the primary means to target young voters--the respect it deserves.

"Voting is habit-forming," Anderson says. "Once a young person experiences what it's like to vote in a presidential election, that person is not likely to sit out any important elections going forward.

"If Republicans don't start reaching out to young voters, they risk losing them forever."

It's all too easy, Anderson says, to make fun of the young, but they're not the only ones taking selfies.

On the campaign trail these days, candidates have to allocate considerably more time to rope lines, because potential voters of all ages demand selfies with candidates.

And not just one picture. Often, they'll demand that potential leaders of the Free World retake a photo because they didn't like their smile or the way their chin looked.

Anderson says that it's important to ignore the trivial and focus on what matters, and what matters is that digital must have a seat at the table at the highest level of any presidential campaign.

"Most campaigns tend to look at digital as a box they can check," Anderson says, "instead of a key aspect of strategy going forward. That's just not going to work today."

The Democrats aren't doing much better, she says. The Clinton campaign is no more committed to social media than the multitudinous Republican candidates vying for the chance to face her.

The 2016 election, Anderson suggests, is not going to be decided on rope lines, in candidate debates, or even on micro-targeted TV ads.

Instead, she argues persuasively in her book, the 2016 presidency will be settled quietly, as millions of millennials study the candidates from an online vantage point instead of a campaign rally.

If you truly want to understand the future of American politics, look no further than The Selfie Vote. It's a fascinating, well-researched and well-argued read, and also a reassuring one.

The millennials are a lot savvier than their parents' generation may have realized.

Get the picture?