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Wake Up To Politics - October 5, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: “The Snapchat Generation” runs for office
Wake Up To Politics - October 5, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, October 5, 2021. Election Day 2024 is 1,127 days away. Election Day 2022 is 399 days away. The debt ceiling deadline is 13 days away.

Leading today’s newsletter: My reporting on a new tool Snapchat is rolling out to step up its involvement in the political space. Later on: The latest on the debt ceiling standoff, plus I answer a few reader questions.

“The Snapchat Generation” runs for office

Snapchat isn’t just for disappearing photos anymore. The popular app, once known for its inherently ephemeral nature, is now attempting to make a long-lasting impact on the political stage.

This morning, Snap is unveiling a new tool to encourage its young users to seek elected office and become more involved in the political process. The tool, “Run for Office,” will offer an in-app portal designed to help walk users through the complexities of launching a political campaign.

After prompting users to identify issues they are passionate about, the tool will feature a personalized hub of federal, state, and local races they may be interested in entering, from a curated pool of over 75,000 elections.

If users do decide to move forward with seeking office, Snap is also hoping to assist in the management of the campaign itself: the tool will include a feature called “My Campaign Dashboard,” showing users the steps they need to take to get on the ballot in their area, helping connect them with partner organizations that can offer more resources, and even allowing them to begin campaigning right there on the app, among their closest friends.

“We hope launching the ‘Run for Office’ mini changes the idea of who can be in office — that no matter who you are, where you come from, that you can make a difference in your local community by running for office based on the issues they care most about,” Sofia Gross, Snap’s head of policy partnerships and social impact, told Wake Up To Politics.

A glimpse at the “Run for Office” tool. (Photo courtesy of Snap)

Justin Tseng, a Harvard senior who is balancing his studies with a campaign for Medford City Council in Massachusetts, told WUTP that his generation faces a slew of “existential challenges” that give young candidates “a perspective to political leadership that is more holistic” in listening to a diverse range of voters, including those from marginalized communities.  

Seeking office as a full-time college student, Tseng said that he has found “voters really are much more concerned with the maturity of one’s ideas than the age of the candidate.”

The new effort reflects Snapchat’s heightening ambitions in the political space. “We view this as a long-term investment in the next generation of American leadership, starting at the local level,” Gross said. “We want to help shape a more reflective and equitable democracy for all Americans, and that includes the Snapchat Generation.”

Snap also featured a suite of civic tools in the lead-up to the 2020 election, mainly aimed at encouraging its users to register to vote. According to the company, Snapchat helped register more than 1.2 million of its users — more than half of whom were first-time voters.

“Run for Office” builds off of what Snap learned during that process: the company’s research found that users were five times more impacted by being encouraged by friends to cast a ballot than by influencers and celebrities. As a result, the new tool will also allow Snapchat users to “nominate” their friends as a way to encourage them to run for office.

Medford City Council candidate Justin Tseng speaks to Wake Up To Politics in a Zoom interview. 

“I think that’s a huge factor in getting young people to run for office,” Tseng said. “A lot of people feel like they don’t have the knowledge or they don’t have the experience necessary to run for office, which is not true. But it sometimes takes the nudging of a few friends to push you to realize that, yes, you are qualified to run for office.”

Tseng, who has advised Snap in its development of the “Run for Office” tool, said the app was an ideal space for this type of outreach not just because of its reach — which extends to 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., according to the company — but also because of its less formal nature.

“Snapchat is a casual app,” Tseng said. “And I think we often think of the political realm as formal realm.”

“But the way that most people get involved in social life is through casual means, right? In joining a club or joining local community groups, you have a neighbor or you have a friend that gets you involved... And so I think there’s power in utilizing Snapchat as a casual network to bridge that gap with the political realm.”

What else you should know

President Biden told House progressives in a virtual meeting on Monday that the Democratic spending package will have to come down to somewhere between $1.9 trillion and $2.2 trillion.

Senate Minority Letter Mitch McConnell penned a letter to Biden warning that “since your party wishes to govern alone, it must handle the debt limit alone as well.” In a speech on Monday, Biden called McConnell’s debt ceiling position “hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful” and said he couldn’t guarantee the nation would avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default.

Former President Trump reportedly considered announcing a 2024 presidential bid in August but was talked out of it by aides.

NIH Director Francis Collins is resigning today after serving in the post for more than 12 years, under three presidents. Collins has been at the NIH for almost three decades and is the agency’s longest-serving director.

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang is leaving the Democratic Party and forming a new party, the Forward Party.

— The Biden administration announced plans to reverse a Trump-era ban on federal family planning aid going to organizations that provide abortion referrals.

A senior State Department official has left his post in protest of the Biden administration’s use of a Trump policy to expel migrants from the southern border. He is the second senior official to step down over the issue.

Andrew Yang, Democrat-turned-Forward Party founder. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Ask Gabe: Your questions, answered

Amid the stew of legislative complexities facing Congress right now, many of you have been writing in with great questions. I’m going to try to tackle some of them here over the next few days, so everyone can see the answers in case more than one of you were wondering the same questions in the back of your head.

First off, here’s a process question on addressing the debt ceiling:

Instead of raising the debt ceiling, could the Democrats use the budget reconciliation process to just suspend the debt ceiling? — Mike C.

This is a question that’s open for debate. As you may recall from last week, there are two ways Congress handles the debt ceiling: either by raising it (setting a new limit higher than the old one) or suspending it (temporarily abolishing it until a certain date, at which point the new limit becomes the sum of the old limit and however much debt has been issued over the course of the suspension).

Many lawmakers view suspending the debt ceiling as an easier vote politically — since it isn’t attached to a concrete number that might remind voters of how high the national debt has climbed. That’s why the past eight times that the debt ceiling has been hit, it’s been suspended and not raised.

But each of those eight suspensions were done through “regular order,” not the filibuster-proof reconciliation process, which Republicans are attempting to force Democrats into using this time around. It’s unclear if a suspension will fly under the Byrd Rule, which governs the reconciliation process. Democrats are seeking final clarification from the Senate parliamentarian on whether reconciliation can be used to suspend the debt ceiling, but most experts interpret the rule as only allowing fixed increases to the debt limit.

That means Democrats will likely — but not certainly — have to put a number on their increase. One thing to note, though: That also could give Democrats an opening to raise the limit absurdly high, so they don’t have to worry about the debt ceiling for years to come. For this exact reason, House Budget Chair John Yarmuth has suggested raising the limit to something close to “a gazillion dollars,” although it doesn’t seem that idea has gained too much traction just yet.

Senate Republicans hold a press conference calling for Democrats to address the debt ceiling through reconciliation. (Nathan Posner / Wake Up To Politics)

Next, a question on the history behind America’s national debt, from Subscriber No. 1 (my mother):

Have we ever run the economy with no debt? — Amy F.

In my debt ceiling explainer, I noted that the U.S. government runs on a deficit, which means it routinely spends more money than it takes in through taxes — and therefore needs to issue debt to keep on running. But has it always been the case that the country has functioned through borrowing? Almost.

There is one example in American history of the national debt reaching $0: for about a year-long period in 1835. The president at the time was Andrew Jackson, who made eliminating the debt a top priority and delivered on the promise by selling off vast tracts of federal land in the West and vetoing a slew of spending bills.

However, Jackson’s policies are widely seen as having backfired: the selling-off of federal lands led to a real estate bubble, which combined with other factors to create the Panic of 1837. Soon enough, the nation was in a recession: the government was forced to begin borrowing once again, and it hasn’t stopped since.

Remember, though: the national debt (how many money the government owes to its creditors) is different than the national deficit (the difference between how much the government is spending and how much it’s taking in). There have been times in U.S. history when the government has had a budget surplus instead of a deficit (most recently in 2001, at the end of the Clinton presidency), but the government was still being financed through debt even during those periods.

Thanks for reading, Mom!

A graph showing the national debt as a percentage of GDP throughout U.S. history. Take a look at 1835 to see the sole period in which the coutnry had no debt. (Graphic by the Brookings Institution)

And now, our last reader note of the day, a response to my use of the portmanteau “Manchinema,” for Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema:

Don’t you think “Synemin” works better? They are adding spice to the process after all. — Tim C.

This one just made me chuckle. Nicely done, Tim.

Do you have a question on American politics that you want answered? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com and your question might get featured in a future issue of the newsletter.

Or feel free just to write in with your hot take on the all-important “Manchinema” vs. “Synemin” debate. Frankly, I think I’ve been converted to Team Synemin.


All times Eastern, unless otherwise noted.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9 a.m. Then, at 10:15 a.m., he will meet virtually with Democratic members of the House to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Democratic spending package.

At 11:30 a.m., Biden will depart the White House, touching down at 1:55 p.m. in Howell, Michigan. At 3 p.m., he will visit the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 training facility. At 3:30 p.m., he will deliver remarks on the two aforementioned pieces of legislation.

Finally, at 4:30 p.m., Biden will depart Michigan, arriving back at the White House at 6:40 p.m.

Vice President Kamala Harris will participate in a virtual Democratic National Committee (DNC) finance event at 6 p.m.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Michigan.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of Paloma Adams-Allen’s nomination to be Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). At 11:30 a.m., the chamber will hold a cloture vote to advance Adams-Allen’s nomination, and then recess until 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings.

At 2:15 p.m., the Senate will hold a confirmation vote for Adams-Allen, followed by a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Lauren King to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Washington. There will then be up two hours of debate on King’s nomination, followed by a vote on her confirmation. (Watch the Senate session)

The House is out for a “Committee Work Week” and isn’t scheduled to hold any votes until October 19. The chamber will briefly convene at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session; no business will be conducted. (Watch the House session)


The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on protecting kids online. The hearing will feature testimony from Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower who helped gather documents that contributed to the Wall Street Journal series revealing the company’s internal research on the negative impact it has had on young girls. (Watch)

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on renewing and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will testify. (Watch)

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at 1 p.m. on the Afghanistan withdrawal. The witnesses will be: Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State under George W. Bush; H.R. McMaster, who served as National Security Advisor under Trump; Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama; and Douglas Lute, who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO under Obama. (Watch)


The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases today.

At 10 a.m., the justices will hear arguments in Brown v. Davenport, which concerns state prisoners’ access to federal habeas corpus review.

At 11 a.m., the justices will hear arguments in Hemphill v. New York, which centers around the rights of criminal defendants under the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause. (Listen)

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