GOP Uses Wonky Videos to Push Budget Agenda

Some Republicans are turning YouTube into a lecture hall, using web video to explain dry issues and to propel their economic agenda as the country heads towards a federal government shutdown.

Perhaps the most unique use of online political video lately comes from the House Budget Committee. Most Americans couldn’t name the committee’s chair, but his video-centric approach to pushing the House Republicans’ budget proposals, and his own profile, could raise awareness of the Wisconsin Congressman. Rep. Paul Ryan stars in an April 4 video produced by the Republican-led House Budget Committee he chairs.

In it, Ryan stands in a congressional meeting room, pointing to a superimposed chart displaying the projected public debt if federal spending were to continue on its current path. “We face a crushing burden of debt which will take down our economy,” he states, noting that the Republican’s “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal will reduce the debt over time by cutting spending.

The video is more than 3 minutes long, and despite some captivating string instrumentation, isn’t exactly high on the entertainment scale. Yet, in just a few days, it’s been viewed nearly 127,000 times. According to a House Budget Committee spokesperson, the video was paid for by the committee’s franking funds – money that congressional members and government bodies can use to spread the word about official, non-campaign related initiatives.

Ryan also uses video in conjunction with his Prosperity Project PAC. A new 6-minute video from April 5 entitled, “The Crisis,” features Ryan accompanied by several visual aids intended to suggest the “spending binge isn’t sustainable.” In it, he touches on wonky topics such as the differences between mandatory and discretionary spending. Just like the name of his PAC, the bulk of the video message mirrors what’s in the House Budget Committee’s video.

One difference, however, is a video overlay ad featured in the PAC video, linking to a related petition on the group’s ProsperityProject.org site. The “pledge,” like most other online petitions, is clearly intended to collect supporters’ contact information for future campaigns and fundraising efforts.

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Ryan’s videos stand in stark contrast to a series of action-flick-inspired videos from likely presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

Another possible GOP primary candidate, tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, has been pushing her own budget related message for weeks now via YouTube, along with ads driving traffic to the video. The 2-minute clip employs a more typical political talking-head style, featuring the Minnesota Republican explaining that $105 billion of funding was written into the healthcare reform law. “This is absolutely outrageous,” says Bachmann, calling the funding “legislative fraud.”

Display ads retargeting people who have visited her MichelePAC site promote the video and a related “Don’t Raise the Debt Ceiling” petition.

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