Debt Ceiling Debate May Have Been Won Or Lost In Twitterville

In a town of 200 million folks, Twitterville is more than twice the size of Canada and two-thirds the size of the U.S. The difference being, members of the the microblogging site speak their minds daily to a global audience, while American citizens can only grumble amongst a handful of friends and family, at best.

I reported back in June, that our Chief of State, Barack Obama unaffected by how some lawmakers have mishandled themselves in Twitterville (e.g. the recent WeinerGate scandal), he has embraced the social network in a big way. In this YouTube video of July 6, he made history by becoming the first president to live tweet.

Subsequently, with the recent 'debt ceiling' wranglings heating up, he has ratcheted up his activity on Twitter by jumping in with tweets a' blazin'... and, in the 11th hour, he's made an attempt to mobilize his 9.4 million followers to force the GOPs hand in coming up with a necessary compromise - less the nation fall into default.  

So in a flurry of 140 characters-briefs to the nation, Obama urges both Democrats and Republican citizens to vigilantly utilize all the technological means available to them, including Twitter.

He then followed up with this plea by posting over 100 Twitter messages listing the Twitter handles of 232 GOP lawmakers, urging his followers to contact and express their concern over the delay in making some type of a compromise.

No one was spared . . . not even his previous opposition in the 2008 election race.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle report, one of McCain's fellow Republicans from Arizona labeled the use of Twitter: "a silly gimmick." Representative Trent Franks said Obama should have spent more time engaging directly with House Republicans and putting specifics on paper. Then in a flip-flop reversal of his distaste for the use of the microblogging site, Franks stated, "I wish the president would tweet us. . .he is AWOL in this discussion."

This set off a series of retaliatory broadcasts by the GOP who also joined in the Twitterville chatter. Senator Dan Coats, an Illinois Republican tweeted to his followers that he was not pleased with the President's speeches, and instead preferred a concrete plan.

Ronald Yaros, a professor of new media and mobile journalism at the University of Maryland in College Park noted that he felt Twitter had evolved into a mass medium that can mobilize average citizens in real-time. "It's a very effective, efficient way to get the word out, and to let the network of existing followers be the disciples for, without waiting for the television camera to turn on," Yaros stated.

Perhaps having exhausted the idea of individual tweets listing the Republican legislators individually, one of the President's most recent tweets (before this post) included a hyperlink that provided a directory to view the entire roster collectively.

Noting, "we need to keep it up until we have a deal, so we've created a directory of members of Congress on Twitter. Find your legislator in the list below and tweet them to let them know it's time to come to a compromise and get this thing done."

Well, this shows you the president is a firm believer in the power that hails from Twitterville. What do you think? Can 200 million folks be mobilized to press the House and the Senate to act in a responsible way? Or is this just a minor blip on the political stratosphere that doesn't carry the heft required to counter the looming crisis affecting this entire nation's future?

UPDATE - Bloomberg - July 31 - Not everyone was a fan of the president’s message blitz. Obama’s campaign Twitter feed lost 33,243 followers July 29, according to Twitter Counter, a website that tracks statistics for more than 10 million Twitter users. By 7 p.m. Washington time, the site had gained 10,786 followers, according to Twitter Counter.  (note: what might have been the reason for the marked drop-off could have been due to the frequency of tweets listing the GOP lawmakers' twitter handles. Some reports indicated they could have easily flooded a followers' Twitter stream - as the 200+ were sent within minutes of each other - this is lesson to be learned by the President the next time he considers using this method of communication!)

Jul 30, 2011
by Anonymous

From George Vreeland Hill

Dear Congress:
Last year I mismanaged my funds and this year my family and I cannot decide on a budget.
Until we can come to a unified decision that fits all of our needs and interests, we will have to shut down our check book and will no longer be able to pay our taxes.
I'm sure you'll understand.
Thank you very much for setting an example we can all follow.

George Vreeland Hill