After reading Matt Bai’s piece in the New York Times Magazine yesterday, I’d like to explain why I tweet and post here on Tumblr. His thesis is that twitter is banal and superficial and therefore not a good fit within the context of politics and Congressional activity. Of the 100’s of tweets that my thumbs are responsible for, he chose to highlight a reply I made to someone who had asked about my favorite meal at Taco Bell. Admittedly, this is definitely not important stuff.
But – like many in Washington – he misses the point.
First, through Twitter, on a daily basis I post information on a public bulletin board about serious public policy issues. Short and sweet, these messages are intended to drive thought and discussion rather than provide a thorough analysis of the issue.
Second, as his bar graph showed, I tweet an average of 4 to 5 times a day. This has become a welcome discipline for me in Washington. As I am walking to a hearing, or riding the tram over for a vote, I think of what I want to tell the folks at home about my work or life. This, I believe, is a fairly decent way to stay connected. After all, I’m in Washington to work for them and this process reminds me of it several times a day.
Third, I use Twitter because no one can edit me. In a media world driven by an edited sound bite, and a Capitol Hill culture that parses, obfuscates, and works hard at saying nothing, we shouldn’t look down our noses at a few short declarative sentences. While this method of direct communication makes my staff nervous – they think it makes me look less “senatorial” — it is me. I’m a Midwesterner, and this short simple way of speaking is my native tongue.
Finally, it’s fun. Trust me when I tell you that part of the problem in Washington is that folks there take themselves way too seriously. As I tweet about my college basketball team, global warming, my kids, reverse mortgages, music, and tax policy, or as I Tumblr blog about rules of voting on the budget and my creamed spinach recipe, I’m staying connected, grounded, and I have a smile on my face.