Social Advocacy & Politics: Almost There (in Congress and on Twitter)

Alan Rosenblatt Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy, turner4D

Posted on September 3rd 2013

Social Advocacy & Politics: Almost There (in Congress and on Twitter)


This past week we saw the @WhiteHouse, the @StateDept and @NSCPress squared off in a full-blown Twitter debate with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle over whether the U.S. should have a military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria… almost. It had all the hallmarks of a debate. Positions were staked out.  And one side apparently won.

ImageThe Administration tweeted its position that military action was necessary to preserve America’s credibility and take a stand against the use of weapons of mass destruction. And Members of Congress, both Republicans and Progressives alike, called on the President to consult with Congress, to gets its authorization before taking action.

And after a few days of these tweets, the President announced he would consult with Congress and seek authorization when they return to session on September 9.

It had all the hallmarks of a debate, except none of them were talking to each other. No replies, no @mentions, just a one-way broadcast of their positions to the public. And while some Members of Congress (for example @RepJustinAmash and @SenRandPaul) tweeted the substance of their arguments for all to follow and even mentioned Secretary of State Kerry, a whole bunch of Senators simply tweeted a link to their “statement on Syria,” avoiding any substantive comments in their tweets.

And the two presidential hopefuls among the Republican Senators, @MarcoRubio and @TedCruz, were virtually silent on Syria the whole time, preferring to tweet about repealing Obamacare, instead.

We are almost there. Our leaders are using Twitter to tell the people their positions on the great debates of our day. Now they need to talk to each other about it.

The biggest reason, in my opinion, why Congress has become so dysfunctional is that Members don’t really talk to each other anymore. Stories of GOP House Members chastising their colleagues for having a friendly hallway conversation with a Democrat abound in Washington. This lack of civility makes it impossible for Congress to govern effectively.

So while I am still disappointed that the Twitter debate over Syria looked like a lot of our leaders talking past each other, again, I am heartened to see they have taken to the same unofficial, public forum to make their statements. And given that that forum IS a social network, Twitter itself may put pressure on them to actually talk with each other to resolve the problems we all face.


Social Advocacy & Politics is a weekly, exclusive column for Social Media Today by Alan Rosenblatt that explores the intersection of politics and social media. Look for the next installment next Tuesday morning.


Alan Rosenblatt

Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy, turner4D

Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D. is a social media and online advocacy strategist, professor & thought leader. He is Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy at turner 4D (formerly Turner Strategies), the co-founder and host of the Internet Advocacy Roundtable; and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins, American, (Georgetown and Gonzaga Universities), where he teaches courses on internet politics. He was Associate Director for Online Advocacy at the Center for American Progress/CAP Action Fund from 2007-2013, where he created and directed the Center’s social media program, as well as Ombudsmen and co-founder at Take Action News. Alan taught the world’s first internet politics course ever at George Mason University in 1995. He founded the Internet Advocacy Roundtable in 2005; blogs at,, and occasionally/previously at,,; serves on’s board of directors and Social Media Today’s Advisory Board; In 2008, he was a fellow at George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet; and is a co-founder of  Alan has a Ph.D. in Political Science from American University, an M.A. in Political Science from Boston College and a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Tufts University. Find him on Twitter and across social media at @DrDigiPol.

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Posted on September 3rd 2013 at 2:55PM

It's amazing to see the US Government (& others) beginning to utilize these social media channels to release important political messages.  I personally believe this is a big step in Government communications

Posted on September 4th 2013 at 11:01AM

An article in the latest NY Magazine reports that Members of Congress don't follow Members on the other side of the aisle. They still have more work to do to become truly social.