CAPITOL HILL – A freshman Democratic Congressman from North Carolina did something on social media you just don't see that often. He looked into the camera and told everyone he was wrong.
"I'm still brand new to Congress and recently I got something totally wrong. And I'm going to tell you what I want to do differently going forward because of what I got wrong," Rep. Jeff Jackson said in the video posted to TikTok and Instagram.
It proceeded to get more than two million views.
"I knew this person by reputation. And it was not good. I had seen them on TV and Twitter, and it was clear this was not someone I'm going to be able to work with. But it's important to be polite so I said 'Hi, my name is Jeff Jackson, I'm the new guy from North Carolina.' And then we talked for 20 minutes. This person is brilliant," the video continued.
Jackson was talking about preconceived notions he had about a Republican member of Congress he had just met. He wouldn't say who it was, but he was a little shocked people cared so much.
"I've been surprised, frankly, that I've gotten the reaction I have by just looking in the camera and not trying to make people angry," he said.
It's a running theme in Jackson's videos. Open honesty and the willingness to admit when he's wrong or doesn't know something. Some of the videos he's posted since getting elected have received more than 20 million views as his follower count continues to rise.
The North Carolina Democrat is far from the first politician to get attention on social media with many tending to be firebrands looking for engagement. Household names like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) have carved out brands fitting that description.
But Jackson is looking for more than just a rising follower count. He's looking for common ground.
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"The state of the common ground is more than you think, more than you know, more than we want you to know, because so many people benefit from the discourse of conflict. Conflict is what gets us invited on to cable news, it gets us to raise money. If we tell a story about 'Hey there's this bill you didn't hear about, but I was able to work together with the other side' it serves none of the short-term incentives that exist here for a lot of people," he told CBN during an interview in his D.C. office.
It's resonating with more than 300,000 followers on Instagram and more than one million on TikTok, Jackson says he's finding an audience from both sides of the aisle. You can find comments on his videos from people identifying as Republicans saying they appreciate his style.
"We've been underestimating the American people and their capacity for nuance, and detail, and substance," said Jackson.
He credits his time in the Army, where he still serves in the National Guard, as the place he learned to work with anyone no matter their creed or color. The Bibles in his Capitol office are gifts he received for serving in the state legislature. Another place he preached teamwork came much earlier.
"The first public speaking of my entire life was through Youth Group during Youth Sunday when I got to lead the children's sermon... I had told them try to be like Jesus for a day, and my Pastor came up and said, 'Jeff they're supposed to be like Jesus every day.' I said, 'They're five years old, let's shoot for one day and see how that goes.'"
His social media success would make some full-time influencers jealous. But while you won't catch Jackson doing a viral dance craze, he hopes his straight talk can influence more people to get engaged with government, and find the common ground we all stand on.
"I think it's important when it comes to rebuilding the loss of trust because there's an enormous loss of trust for this institution and the people who serve there. You can't fix that by saying, 'No, you have to trust me.' You've got to fix that by starting with transparency, which is as simple as saying, 'Here's what I did today, here's what I'm going to do tomorrow.' That's where trust starts."
TikTok has been a point of concern on Capitol Hill with multiple discussions about it potentially being banned. Jackson says the concerns about the connection to China and spying are valid. Since it's one of the only ways to reach younger constituents, he keeps the app on a non-government phone with TikTok being the only app.
He agrees, though, there's a chance it could be banned. "I wouldn't say it's zero," he told CBN.
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