- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2019

Young liberal lawmakers haven’t just taken social media by storm, it turns out, but instead have helped their party catch up to what had been a Republican advantage over the last decade.

Now led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a left-wing Twitter sensation, Democrats are easing into the lead.

The New York Democrat helped organize a session last week of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee to explore “the most effective ways to engage constituents on Twitter and the importance of digital storytelling.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has nearly 2.5 million followers on Twitter, making her one of the leaders of the medium in Congress. She was joined as host of the meeting by Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, whose healthy 76,500 followers pale in comparison to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s social media super star status.

Some conservative critics complained the session appeared to be unfair collusion between Twitter and liberal lawmakers, but the platform made clear the GOP also would be welcome.

“We regularly host trainings with congressional staff and members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to ensure legislators are able to leverage the power of Twitter to amplify their message and communicate directly with their constituents,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an email.

While President Trump may dominate Twitter from the White House, when it comes to Congress, Democrats are winning in terms of use.

The public affairs software firm Quorum found that Democratic lawmakers sent 42 percent more tweets in 2018 than their Republican colleagues. That’s a major reversal from the last decade.

In August-September 2009, when Twitter was in its infancy, there were more Republican than Democratic lawmakers taking advantage of the social medium. The Congressional Research Service found Republicans accounted for two-thirds of daily tweet traffic.

Lawmakers are allowed to use taxpayer money to run their official accounts, though it’s the personal and campaign accounts that seem to be where the real action is.

For example, @POTUS, the official presidential Twitter account, has 25 million followers. Mr. Trump’s own account, @RealDonaldTrump, boasts 57.6 million and is where he issues most of his social media pronouncements.

Mr. Trump is also a master of Facebook: His campaign was convinced its outreach on the platform, at a price of $44 million, provided a key boost to his candidacy.

In addition to his large presence on Twitter, Mr. Trump remains a voracious employer of social media platforms, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale told Fox News earlier this month.

“We’re still spending millions of dollars across all the networks now,” Mr. Parscale said.

Every House and Senate office now maintains a Twitter account. Every Senate office is also on Facebook, while nearly all House offices are, CRS reported last year.

YouTube and Instagram lag behind, with 13 percent of House members and 6 percent of senators not using YouTube and Instagram at below 50 percent — and falling — for House members, CRS reported.

A few offices also have Pinterest, Snapchat and Medium accounts, too.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s social media stardom is such that even posts about her move the needle. Earlier this month, for example, a short film of her and some of her undergraduate friends at Boston College surfaced, with the group dancing on a rooftop in a spoof of a famous scene in “The Breakfast Club” movie.

That film went viral, and even the song that played, “Lisztomania,” saw a huge spike in streamed viewing, according to accounts.

Yet despite her dominant position among congressional colleagues in social media, it turns out that the older lawmakers of both parties are hip to Twitter, too, according to Quorum’s analysis, which found “the average legislator in their eighties was more active on Twitter than the average legislator in their thirties in the 115th Congress.”

Among the most active senators on Twitter, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, are in their mid-80s.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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