It’s always amusing to read postmortems about political tussles; the seemingly irresistible temptation to declare “winners” and “losers” always finds a way to rear its ugly head in the media. When the showdown over the national debt ceiling increase became the latest political football to dominate the cable TV airwaves, it seemed inevitable that the American public was on a fast track to playing spectator to another round of parlor games. But this time it was different.
Political ideologies aside, unanimous public opinion has confirmed that Washington is suffering from a surplus of losers these days. Approval ratings for Congress are dismal, the President’s ratings are the lowest of his term, and nearly 3 out of 4 Americans think the nation is on the wrong track.
But look closely and you’ll find a winner.
When the President took to his social media platforms (and primetime TV) urging Americans to encourage bipartisanship via social media, the initial impact was two-fold. Within days, he lost 36,000 Twitter followers (clearly an unintended consequence of politicizing his feed). But when an agreement to raise the national debt ceiling was eventually reached the following week, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer declared – via a Tweet of his own, appropriately – that the outpouring of support via Twitter pressured Congress to act.
The latest round of political back-and-forth offers a far different narrative than in times past, with social media earning its stripes as a credible vehicle for communicating with – even lobbying – elected officials. As this recent CNBC blog post reported, social media’s role in the debt ceiling debate might have been the tipping point it’s been waiting for – elevating the medium from a grass roots organizing tactic to a tour de force in the halls of government.