Twitter entered inauguration weekend with a couple of big political announcements: Not only would First Lady Michelle Obama take up the micro blogging site during her husband’s second term, but all 100 senators in the 113th Congress would be tweeting too.
That’s a huge increase from the opening of the 112th Congress in 2011 when only 44 senators were tweeting. Twitter also boasts 398 House members with accounts.
A quick review of about 30 senators’ handles revealed no slackers. All of the senators -- or usually their staffs, of course -- are tweeting at least several times a week but, more importantly, a solid proportion of those tweets include content that would actually be valuable to people following the senators’ activities, such as links to legislation the lawmaker introduced, notes on committee work and alerts about media appearances.
The danger with politicians' Twitter accounts is that real policy can be subsumed by feel good boosterism, slice of life throwaways and “politicians: they’re just like us” tweets. But in most cases, the policy seems to be getting through. It’s instructive that the chatter about tweeting senators tends to focus on those who tweet too freely rather than too seldom.
The role of the legislative branch is very different from the executive, of course, and lends itself more easily to a steady stream of substantive tweets. Every senator casts numerous votes each week, while an agency can spend months formulating a single policy change. Lawmakers are, on the dotted line, only beholden to themselves and their constituents, while an executive branch official must take positions that jibe with agency and governmetnwide policy. It would be nice to see more federal executives following Congresses’ lead, though.
I didn’t review all senators’ accounts, so please point out in the comments if I’ve missed any laggards.