In the early 1990s, Republican politicians dominated talk radio. Persuasive speakers used the medium to advance their political agendas (through their own shows, interviews, and ads) and uproot scores of Democratic congressmen, governors, and state lelegislators in the 1994 election.
Today, we have an interesting parallel. Republicans are now proactively using Twitter to build up support among the Nation’s younger generation (18 to 24 year olds –-who are typically skeptical of the virtues of limited government, more supportive of gay marriage, and overwhelmingly identify themselves as democrats). On an April 23, 2009 episode of The View, John McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain said that “81% of people under the age of 30 consider themselves democrats.”
In fact, a February 17, 2009 Washington Times article reports that Republican politicians have surpassed Democratic politicians on Twitter. Right now, 93 Republicans in Congress use Twitter, compared to 52 Democrats (according to http://tweetcongress.org). With 806,691 followers, Republican Senator John McCain is the most followed congressman on Twitter. Senator Claire McCaskill, the most followed Democrat, lags behind with 26,765 followers.
So… conservatives are ALL OVER the micro-blogging site?! Say what?! Wasn’t President Barack Obama the one who received loads of press for being a social media guru? Well, although he still boasts 1,463,854 Twitter followers, since assuming the presidency, his tweets have become few and far between, and Republican Congressmen have seized the opportunity to use this technology (and others) to vocalize their concerns over his current policies.
Is there are a reason that they are currently dominating this medium? It may be because they are tweeting to bypass mainstream media and communicate what they’re doing, their ideas, concerns, and agendas directly to the public. They’re also using the forum to solicit ideas for legislation. And, they’re getting a handle on how to use other tools besides just Twitter. A quick glance at their feeds and you will recognize that they are tweeting links to their blogs and to YouTube clips that support their political objectives, and using all channels to respond to the President’s comments in real time. It still might be too early to tell, but it seems like they understand that they have a chance to transform their tired image and leverage these viral tools to reach the millions of younger, voting-age citizens who they have had difficulty connecting with in the past.
So while republicans are still looking at how Obama used Internet technologies to aid his bid for office, they are certainly trying to improve upon his strategies for future runs. What do you think? Is Twitter the new talk radio for Republicans? Do you think the Republican Party will shine online when the next election rolls around?