Guess what? The start of 2010 means we are once again in an election
year! For the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, the big job
performance review comes this November. But we'll be keeping close watch on
Congress and the rest of government's performance throughout the entire year
here at OhMyGov.
During 2010, I'll be tracking not just what Members of
Congress are saying on Twitter, or how much they're saying, but whether they're
saying it memorably and effectively.
Today there are 178 U.S. representatives, senators and congressional
committees who "tweet" using everyone's favorite microblogging tool, Twitter. I
am following them all. And as new members or committees join the flock I'll add
them to the list.
Living in Seattle, I often feel a bit distanced from D.C. goings-on.
Will my Twitter connection to our elected reps enhance my view of government or
hardly make a difference? I can't wait to find out.
Since it has been only a few days since my initial
Twitter-Congress-connection and I'd hate to be too quick to judge, I will speak
only of my first impressions...for now.
The first daunting task was to follow each and every tweeting
Congressperson. Tweetcongress.org made it
a bit easier by listing them all in one place, but still, clicking on 178
individual profiles to click "follow" on each takes quite some time. Somehow, I
remained conscious long enough to notice some anomalies in the list: some
Congressmen were listed but not tweeting (apparently, Reps. Jim Cooper and
Nancy Pelosi are too cool for Twitter) and Sen. Al Franken, who boasts a
sizable flock of Tweeples, was missing from the list entirely.
Looking at the usernames that Members chose was enlightening in and of
itself. Most congresstweeps just use their God-given name, possibly preluded by
a "Rep" or "Sen." In the slew of logically generic go-bys, the few
slightly-questionable names stand out like reality-show wannabes at a White House dinner (or not).
Take, for example, the "Congs." Yeah, I get that it stands for
Congressman, but the ear (and untrained eye) could easily mistake it for Kong,
as in King Kong and Donkey Kong. I don't know who did it first, but Reps. Jeff Miller, Bill Posey and Joe Wilson are all "Cong"a
tweeters... @CongJeffMiller etc. To be quite frank, the term is growing on me,
and I plan on utilizing it in conversation whenever I refer to Congressmen.
Rep. Glenn Thompson's Twitter handle (@congressmangt) makes you wonder
about the psychological implications of spelling out the job title but
shortening the name to just initials (my money is on him being a Red Coat).
Whether or not anyone has told Rep. Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen that her initials
also mean "in real life" to chat roomers and MySpacers, her account
name @irl wins for most ironic... and most surprisingly not-already-taken.
However, the winner, and absolute best Congressional Twitter username
goes to Jason Chaffetz. Although it makes sense that the GOP representative
from Utah's 3rd Congressional District would mention that he is in the House of
Representatives, "JasonInTheHouse" is a phrase that conjures
"raise the roof" hand gestures.
Once I had clicked "follow" on each profile, I knew I had crossed a
threshold and could not turn back. I had entered a new phase of democracy! All
of a sudden, I had messages written by my representatives flooding my phone.
When I awoke one morning with 187 new tweets, I had a hunch that I should maybe
keep my Congressional tweet-watching online.
One of the biggest surprises, however, was their eagerness to
reciprocate the connection and respond! Having begun only a few days ago, I've
already accumulated a Congressional flock consisting of seven representatives
(Neil Abercrombie was the first) and the Republicans of the House Armed
Services Committee. I've since received 6 direct messages thanking me for my
follow; John Boozman even said he's "looking forward to reading my tweets."
What a flatterer, I bet he says that to everyone.
Aside from feeling like an incredibly engaged and active
citizen, my goal with this project is to surmise and summarize the best (and
maybe the worst) Congressional tweeters out there. Who are the most productive?
Who are the most self-promoting? Who just thinks Twitter is fun?
My own data set is thus far too short to reach any viable
conclusions, but Tweetcongress has done some of the ranking for me. The five
most followed Congressional tweeters are:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) with 1,661,393 followers
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) with 35,397 followers
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) with 29,442 followers
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) with 17,831 followers
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) with 17,797 followers
The most active accounts (those with the highest number of
tweets) are: the Senate Republicans, then John Culberson, John Boehner, Claire
McCaskill, and Mike Pence.
The most conversational (those who reply to others most often)
are: John Culberson whose "reply @-rate" is 91% of his tweets, Dana Rorhbacher,
Thaddeus McCotter, Pete Olson and Claire McCaskill. Pretty impressive that Sen.
McCaskill made every one of those Top 5 lists.
I have not been following our esteemed members of Congress for long, I already
feel closer to them. Knowing that they (or any one of their interns) is just
140-characters away is quite empowering. And even though it's been such a short
while, I've already noticed a trending topic that seems universal across House
and Senate, Democrat and Republican: everyone talks about football. Until next
time, I'll leave with my favorite tweet so far:
Blumenauer: Enjoyed by few, appreciated by
many, questioned by all - yes, it's that time of year. I'm making the rounds to
deliver my fruitcakes. 1:41 PM Dec 15th from web