A Wisconsinite will be helping Americans keep up with President-elect Joe Biden after he’s sworn in Wednesday.
Brendan Cohen, 26, will serve as the platform manager for Biden, running the president’s social media accounts and websites and getting information out to the American people.
Cohen grew up in the Appleton area, graduating from Kimberly High School in 2013. While there, he ran cross country and spent much of his time volunteering, he said. He said that during that time, his interest in politics was sparked after seeing Biden speak on TV in support of same-sex marriage.
“In high school, as I was coming to terms with the fact that I was a gay man, I realized pretty early on that one political party supported my rights and the other didn’t. It was the initial spark that got me to start paying attention and got me involved,” he said.
“In fact, I remember Vice President Biden on ‘Meet the Press’ expressing his support for same-sex marriage — and for a kid who was scared and in the closet at the time it meant the world and helped give me the confidence to come out and live openly.”
After high school, he pursued a degree in political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he began working with the college Democrats chapter and working with political campaigns.
“I started interning and volunteering for a bunch of different campaigns, everything from like City Council and state Senate races up to the president,” he said.
It was then he realized his passion for politics and, more specifically, campaigns.
After college, he moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for a fundraising firm that supported Democratic campaigns, learning more about the processes and causes. After the short stint in D.C., he served as a digital director for the congressional campaign of Dan Koh in Massachusetts, who ended up coming short in the primary.
In 2018, he moved back to Wisconsin to serve as the digital director for Gov. Tony Evers’ campaign, helping to lead the team to victory. Cohen said he enjoyed working closely with Evers and watching his leadership.
“Evers is such a caring and empathetic leader, I think,” he said.
His work on Biden presidential campaign
After Evers won the election, Cohen set his sights on working with a presidential campaign, he said. He closely watched for Biden to enter the crowded field of Democratic candidates, he said, and applied as soon as Biden declared candidacy.
“It was honestly a dream come true,” he said of working with the campaign.
Cohen managed social media for the campaign, from the early days of the primary through the general election, watching the plans for the campaign rapidly shift as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country. Cohen even found himself back in Wisconsin for a stretch of months, working on the campaign from home.
“Once the pandemic forced us to go exclusively online, we were kind of operating in this new territory,” he said. “We had a lot of freedom to do all these virtual events and really get our message out to the American people in a digital-first way.”
And even though the celebration had to take place over Zoom, he said the best moment of working with the campaign was celebrating Biden’s win in November.
“The feeling of, you know, pulling it off was just really an incredible, incredible feeling,” he said.
Now that Cohen has been named to Biden’s White House team, he’ll be running the president’s social media after Inauguration Day, along with websites that allow Americans to keep in touch with the President.
Biden’s social media presence and Cohen’s focus on connecting with the public will likely look much different than the past four years under the Trump administration and follows on the heels of President Donald Trump’s social media profiles being locked last week after the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol building during the certification of Biden’s win.
It’s a big job, but one Cohen is looking forward to taking on in the coming weeks.
“I think we have a duty and an important job to communicate with the American people in an effective and clear manner,” he said. “I don’t necessarily get intimidated but I’m more excited by the opportunity, especially as we get underway.”
But even though Cohen will be leaving behind Wisconsin to work with the rest of the Biden team, he still holds the state dear. He’s a big Packers fan and has fond memories of spending time during the summer in the Northwoods near Eagle River.
“And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the cheese curds and Spotted Cow,” he said.
Laura Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @SchulteLaura.