Twitter is an astounding communication platform that can be used expertly to advance instant and mass understanding. This paper’s Twitter feed and the feeds of many of its reporters are must-follows for those who want to stay up to speed on news important to Maine.
Twitter is also a horrific accident in the making for those who use it incorrectly. In an unfiltered instant, a person of standing can do great harm to their reputation with an ignorant utterance or an inappropriate photo shared with their followers.
For example, a tweet from a member of Congress can add to the national debate. On at least one occasion, however, a member of Congress actually tweeted a photo of his member, and it is hard to come up with an example of a bigger self-inflicted public relations blunder.
In my view, those who post to inform or entertain are doing it right. If your tweet gets its message across in a subtle or clever way, you get style points.
So kudos and extra credit go to @SenJohnMcCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, who tweeted “Must Read” to his 1.86 million followers last week along with a link to a Wall Street Journal editorial titled “The Minority Maker.”
The editorial took fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to task for forcing a procedural vote that could be used to “primary” incumbent Republican senators. Both the editorial and McCain are spot on with their annoyance with the first-term tea partyer from Texas.
Cruz continues to see brinksmanship as a path to his own prominence within a narrow wing of the Republican Party. Those, like Cruz, who are all too happy to embrace extremism regardless of the electoral or economic consequences, could keep Republicans in the minority for elections to come.
Here is a quick summary of what happened:
Last October, a small but unrelenting block of Republican lawmakers refused to make concessions on spending packages that would keep the federal government operational. As a result, routine operations of the federal government were shutdown for 16 days.
A similar impasse existed on the federal debt ceiling, but a deal was ultimately reached just hours before the government would have lost its ability to borrow money to meet its obligations. While a default was avoided, the uncertainty created by the standoff had an economic impact that could be measured in the billions.
The public blamed Republicans for both the shutdown and for bringing the federal government to the brink of default. Our party’s inability to lead and govern left many voters believing the GOP was simply too extreme to be trusted.
Shutdown politics and the fallout also took attention away from the challenges President Obama was having with the rollout of his signature domestic policy achievement – the Affordable Care Act. The smoke and dust Republicans threw into the air digging their own political hole provided the president with cover as he struggled to get Obamacare off the ground.
Since October, Republican leaders in Washington have gotten the message and have a much more conciliatory approach to fiscal matters. Understanding their obligation to govern, especially in an election year, House Republicans passed a debt ceiling increase early last week without the drama we saw in October.
Not so in the U.S. Senate, where majority Democrats were poised to raise the debt ceiling on a party line vote. Taking advantage of the chamber’s procedures, Cruz insisted on a cloture vote, which requires 60 votes to advance a measure. Given the partisan divide in the Senate, Cruz forced a handful of Republicans to side with Democrats on the cloture motion to avoid another default debacle.
The move provided political cover to Democrats who would have been solely responsible for enacting, by a majority vote, the debt ceiling increase in the Senate. It also forced Senate Republican leaders Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas to vote in favor of a debt ceiling increase while confronting conservative primary challenges in their home states.
But by some accounts this is exactly what Cruz had in mind, providing primary challengers new and timely ammunition to use against McConnell and Cornyn, two established senators who would have the advantage of incumbency heading into the fall.
We had our own brush with a conservative considering a primary challenge against a popular Republican incumbent last week when John Frary announced a challenge against sitting state Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton. Shortly after Gov. LePage made it clear he was not behind the challenge, Frary withdrew from the race.
I am choosing to take the party politics in Maine and in Washington last week as positive developments for the Republican Party. Despite the short-term political problem the debt ceiling votes may cause for McConnell and Cornyn, they cast votes that were in the best interest of the country and the long-term electoral prospects of the party. Here in Maine, it is a good sign that a protest primary campaign can be headed off before it jeopardizes an otherwise safe Republican seat.
Dan Demeritt is a Republican political consultant and public relations specialist. He is a former campaign aide and communications director for Gov. Paul LePage. He can be contacted at: