What Is the Sound of One Senator Tweeting?

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Gawker tells us that in addition to being far ahead of their Democratic counterparts in the donning of tri-corner hats, GOP members of Congress are leading the way on Twitter:

According to a newly released survey, Republican politicians dominate the congressional Twitter-verse. Meanwhile, Barack Obama just sent his first "Tweet" last month. Twitter Gap!

A Congressional Research Service report released last week (and published by Secrecy News) found that 60% of the members of Congress with Twitter accounts are Republicans, and that fully half of all congressional Twitterers are House GOP members. The study, which was conducted in August of last year is limited to U.S. senators and House members, shows GOP pols out-Twittering Democrats in virtually every category: A whopping 67% of all congressional "Tweets" are written by Republicans.

To this, I offer a resounding, "Meh."

Is there anything less valuable than the tweets of a member of Congress? Just how meaningless is your time if you are willing to pass even an instant of it getting up-to-the-minute updates from the likes of John Boehner and Eric Cantor? But wait, you say -- they might be offering fascinating missives! Really? If you're lucky enough to get Cantor's feed, you'll receive pearls of wisdom like, "I don't think the President's plan to raise taxes will get our economy back on track. What do you think?" and "We are doing everything we can to defeat the Democrats' flawed healthcare takeover bill. It isn't over yet." Boehner chimes in, "Sen. Brown’s seating today confirms: Even in the bluest states, Americans are tired of the Democrats’ job-killing agenda."

Wow! I didn't just need to hear that -- I needed to hear it right now.

And lest you think I'm just picking on Republicans, let's hear what some Democrats are tweeting. How about Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill: "Just arrived back in DC. Huge trucks hauling away snow around the Capitol. No place to push it all." There's been some snow in Washington? You don't say. My favorite may be New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, whose 2,374 followers have been treated to exactly one tweet, posted back in November. "Just joined Twitter!" it reads. So true.

Whatever you think of Twitter, I'm guessing you've never heard anyone say, "Man, I am so psyched to read Congressman Knucklehead's Twitter feed!" Many of them consist of little apart from links to their speeches and press releases. And if there's anything more boring than reading Ben Nelson's wisdom in 140-character chunks, it's reading Ben Nelson's wisdom in 1000-word chunks.

You can tell by my tone that I'm something of a Twitter skeptic (I have a running joke with one of the TAP editors that someday I'll write a piece titled "Hell Is Other People, and Their Stupid F***ing Tweets"). There are valuable Twitter feeds out there (like those of TAP and its personnel, of course), and many, many more that no sane person would waste their time on. Every new social medium that comes along isn't necessarily something every politician should thrust themselves into.

It's possible that the experience of being behind in most kinds of Internet organizing for the last few years made Republicans particularly eager to jump on board the latest Web 2.0 thing. So when that young staffer says, "Hey, we should totally get the Congressman on Twitter!", the Congressman himself says, "Yes, I should be on this Twooter you speak of. Make it so!"

So I don't think Democrats should get too concerned about trailing the Republicans on Twitter. If politicians can use it as an organizing tool for their campaigns, that's great. But while they're trying to do the people's business, it's probably more important that they spend their time doing things like passing the health-care bill.

-- Paul Waldman

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