Explaining the Electoral College can be complicated, and nowadays it's rarely civil. However, Sharon McMahon, known as "America's Government Teacher," is determined to keep the tone civil on social media as she explains electoral law.
Few former U.S. government and history teachers can boast of the social media following that McMahon has — more than 715,000 followers on Instagram (@sharonsaysso), many of whom proudly call themselves "Governerds." McMahon's first lessons on Instagram about the Electoral College, voting, executive orders and more in the fall of 2020 went viral, and soon afterward her social media following began to climb.
McMahon uses Instagram and her popular podcast, Sharon Says So — as well as virtual workshops she offers on her website — to battle misinformation about the U.S. government, the U.S. Constitution and democracy that she sees as an increasingly pervasive problem in this country. Having taught government and law for 10 years, in her native Minnesota, California and Washington, DC, McMahon has the patience and enthusiasm of a teacher who is fascinated by her subjects and eager to explore them with her students.
While the topics that she addresses may seem like benign trivia at first glance, constitutional questions about how the Electoral College operates, the history of the Second Amendment or what would happen if a sitting president refused to leave office at the end of a term have all become politically charged and the basis for misinformation. On social media, these are discussions that often quickly become heated arguments in this country's increasing polarized political landscape.
However, McMahon is determined to keep the tone cool and civil. Sharon Says So is less soapbox and more a spirited conversation with details presented in an engaging spin-free narrative. As neither a political pundit, journalist nor organization spokesperson, McMahon strives to present the facts to the general public in a non-partisan manner.
The desire to hear straightforward, direct answers to basic questions of how the U.S. government operates has clearly resonated with many. Her follower counts can serve almost as a barometer of the intensity of political disagreements. Her numbers spiked after the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol in 2021, with her Instagram following growing by some 50,000.
McMahon's response to the events of that day perfectly fit her mission — she tried to turn down the tension a notch by rallying her audience (then 270,000 followers on Instagram) to send thank-you cards to the Capitol Hill custodial staff who had the task of quickly cleaning Congress after the attack so that the certification of the 2020 election results could proceed.
McMahon's podcasts are not always focused on weighty topics. She will leaven them and her Instagram feed with digressions into the history of the musical Oklahoma! and gentle reminders of the value of listening to understand, if not always agree, with a different viewpoint. McMahon also harnesses her platform to crowdsource aid for people in need, whether it be teachers, domestic violence survivors, those saddled with medical debt or terminally ill children.
Whatever the topic or format, from her daily Q&As to summaries of national events, McMahon is determined not to be didactic in her approach. "My goal is never to get people to think like I think," she told Trevor Noah on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in early 2021. "My goal is to provide you with fact-based, nonpartisan information, so you can form your own educated opinions."