LAUREN: Vivek Is Right — To Reach The Youth, The GOP Must Embrace TikTok


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GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy joined TikTok in September, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to do so. As expected, Ramaswamy was swiftly criticized by many within his own party, culminating with the fireworks at Wednesday night’s debate.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley lit into Vivek for using the app. “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber. This is infuriating because TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps we could have,” she said. It’s worth noting that TikTok is so “dangerous” that Haley’s own daughter uses the app. 

Other prominent Republicans have even called for a full TikTok ban. Sen. Josh Hawley assailed the app with particular fervor back in March.

I get it. There are legitimate concerns over the app. The Chinese Communist Party may be spying on us or stealing our information from the Chinese-engineered and -owned app, and they should be held accountable with a solution that ensures the privacy of American users. There is a laundry list of issues with China, from COVID-19’s origins to unfair trade practices, but while President Xi Jinping grows closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin and threatens to invade Taiwan, our presidential candidates are sitting here scared of an app called TikTok. 

China isn’t doing anything with TikTok that American tech companies aren’t also doing. It’s naïve to think Mark Zuckerberg isn’t farming your personal details to send you specified ads on Facebook or Instagram right now. And Amazon knows what you want before you want it. Thanks, Jeff Bezos. 

Ramaswamy, who has risen to prominence as the millennial candidate, announced his TikTok debut with a post on Twitter. “Kids under age 16 shouldn’t be using it, but the fact is that many young voters are & we’re not going to change this country without winning,” he wrote. “We can’t just talk about the importance of the GOP ‘reaching young voters’ while hiding in our own echo chambers.”

This truth couldn’t be more evident. I traveled to Iowa with the Ramaswamy campaign in July for my TikTok channel. We filmed an MTV “Cribs”-style bus tour and discussed American patriotism, family and more. The posts racked up millions of views on my page, 80 percent of which came from the coveted 18-34 demographic.

Ramaswamy taking the plunge to join TikTok is a strategic move that more GOP candidates should adopt if they want to be competitive against Democrats in 2024. As a Gen-Z TikTok journalist (don’t laugh) with over 150 million views on the platform. I can tell you that many young voters don’t even know who some of the candidates are. Young people aren’t turning on the TV to watch a debate or a town hall, they’re scrolling through TikTok. In fact, only nine percent of daily traditional TV viewers are Gen Z. On my TikTok channel, I receive thousands of comments from young Americans who say I am their favorite news source. 

I am hopeful that Ramaswamy’s decision to join TikTok will inspire the other candidates, but I’m not expecting all of them to come around overnight. While I was covering the first Republican debate in Milwaukee in August, a communications director for one of the GOP candidates told me he would not even open TikTok on his phone. 

Get on TikTok; reach young people. That’s the name of the game. And if you get a few targeted ads that hit too close to home, that’s just the cost of doing business. The reality is you can’t fight the CCP from the sidelines while Democrats are in control of the White House and Senate, so come up with a plan to build a broad coalition, including young people, to take the reins of government and handle the CCP accordingly in January of 2025. 

Tucker Carlson wasted no time embracing new media after his controversial firing from Fox News. Tucker brings in more viewers on Twitter than any other cable news show. His first episode alone garnered 85 million views in the first day. Tucker joined TikTok in August. 

By the end of 2023, 54.4 percent of all Americans will no longer pay for a traditional cable TV service. That statistic should concern GOP candidates and party leadership, who have buried their heads in the sand for far too long. But it’s better to be late to a party than stay at home wondering what could have been. 

The pros outweigh the potential cons when it comes to TikTok adoption. Republicans are slowly embracing new media, but are way behind the Democrats in terms of youth outreach. The DNC already has its Army of Influencers – that’s literally what they’re called – working overtime. Public FEC data has already revealed that the DNC is paying Palette Management a whopping $210,000. Palette manages Harry Sisson, the 20-year-old tasked with making Biden seem cool to Gen Z. You’ve probably seen him screaming into his phone about how hunky Joe looks in his swim trunks on some Delaware beach while the world burns. 

Ramaswamy saying yes to new media has brought real results for his campaign. Three months ago, barely anyone knew his name or how to pronounce it. Today, he’s a major player for the highest office in the land. The GOP should be using TikTok to speak to young people directly. It’s not rocket science. Communicate with young people on an app they already use. Tell young people what solutions you offer to their main issues. Pull that off, and they just might join your coalition. 

Link Lauren is an independent journalist and content creator. He covers politics and culture on his TikTok channel @itsLinkLauren.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.