Joe Biden is bringing back the Fireside Chat… Sorta
In today’s day and age connectivity is everything. Politics is constantly dissected in the news at every angle and thus, as consumers, we are always in politics. But, being connected to politics from its source often feels rare. It’s easy to feel disconnected and isolated from the people over at Capitol Hill. We see them as our government, but their actions and personalities often feel otherworldly. This feeling isn’t new. With the Great Depression beginning in 1929, Americans experienced mass despair and felt an extreme neglect from the government. In his first year as President (1933), President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to rectify this disconnect. He began using radios to speak directly to the American people about the Great Depression, the New Deal and even World War II, in what he called “Fireside Chats” (the name reportedly came from Roosevelt’s belief that the people listening were seated around his fireside). He believed he could use the radio to emphasize regular, consistent communication. He often called the American public his “friends”. This kind of relatability to Presidents has always been such a key part in many of the most respected presidential administrations in American history. Post Roosevelt, the idea of regular addresses waxed and waned, with many, like the Carter administration, afraid of trying such a thing in fear of not being able to compare to FDR’s speaking skills. With a divided country, a borderline-recession and a global pandemic, newly elected President Joe Biden is reviving the tradition.
Biden may be bringing back the tradition, but he isn’t using radio. Before his first release, Biden delivered a speech with his wife Dr. Jill Biden during the Super Bowl. There, he thanked all the health care workers that are working hard during the pandemic. After this, the POTUS appears to be using video formats and social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to upload his Fireside Chat Imitations. The first of these chats (titled “A Weekly Conversation”) involves the President talking to a woman named Michele Voelkert. Michele was laid off due to the pandemic, so she wrote to the President. Biden uses the opportunity to discuss his American Rescue Plan to help bring aid and support to unemployed Americans and also to announce efforts to get over 100 million vaccine doses out to the people.
In his second conversation, Biden talks to Samir and Neal, owners of an Indian Restaurant. The pandemic forced them to readapt and deliver through new methods, like many other restaurants and small businesses. Biden states a statistic that 400,000 small businesses have gone out of business, but that his American Rescue Plan intends to give grants to these businesses. Samir and Neal bring up an important point about restaurants and small businesses lacking guidance, to which the President announces he will rectify that issue.
In his third conversation, Biden switches gears and instead talks to NASA, which recently landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars. The rover is looking for signs of ancient life on Mars. The President compliments NASA’s impressive work. Something to be noted about these conversations is that they come across as portraying Biden as a very genuine person. Of course the general public will never know how Biden is behind closed doors, but as far as marketing is going, it does paint him well.
Biden’s overall social media presence has been pretty extensive, with lots of content creation on his Facebook in particular. Viewership and overall reception has been pretty large, but some of these Weekly Conversation videos haven’t received a super wide audience. The NASA video has 60,000 views on YouTube, which certainly isn’t a small viewership, but for the President of the United States, one might expect more. The same video has over 450,000 views on Facebook, indicating that Facebook is certainly the platform that has better outreach opportunities for the government. However, these numbers pale in comparison to the estimated 62,100,000 people that tuned into the Fireside Chat held by Roosevelt in response to Pearl Harbor in 1941. That number is even more impressive when you recognize the Fireside Chats were only live, while these Weekly Conversation videos can be streamed and watched at any time and still have a much smaller viewership figure. I hope these small viewership numbers to Biden’s production doesn’t discourage his attempts to continue and stay connected to the American public.