Congress’s 'socially awkward' phase
Judd Deere, 24, set up @MikeCrapo on Twitter and oversees social and new media for the Idaho senator.
September 26th, 2012
11:40 AM ET

Congress’s 'socially awkward' phase

By Lisa Desjardins, CNN

Editor's note: This story is part of the CNN series, "Our Mobile Society," about how smartphones and tablets have changed the way we live.

(CNN) – As members of Congress fight for their jobs and face a near pitchfork-level of anger from voters, deep inside Capitol Hill offices, dozens of 20 and 30-somethings are trying to make things better from their keyboards.

Judd Deere, 24, directs new media for Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), a well-known conservative who started tweeting earlier this year.

Deere was hired to help Crapo's office to get a larger presence in social media. Nonetheless, he encountered some resistance over whether the instant-reaction platforms would be good for the senator.

But Deere insisted that any member of Congress who is not vigorously using social media ultimately won't remain in office:

[7:10] "If you're not on Facebook or Twitter, you don't get your message to a group of people that is even starting with my parents age now. There's a section of people who you're not reaching. At all."

The challenge is bringing the 223-year-old institution, which always has interacted with voters through handshake stops and news reports, into a world where the personal, casual and one-on-one dominates.

So far, the ability-to-adapt gap is wide.

Many in Congress still send tweets with an "official" tone to them, and a large group of them don't even tweet themselves.

Only a minority engage one-on-one with voters regularly over social media. However, some experts point out, this is the learning curve.

[4:17] "It's interesting because we expect these people to be experts in something that is roughly 5 years old, you know," said David Almacy, who was the White House internet and e-communications director under President George W. Bush and is now a senior vice president at the Edelman public relations firm.

He points out that when he was in the White House, the digital guys were often the last to be looped into a project. Now, new media staffers like Judd Deere are some of the first players a lawmaker looks to when seeking to communicate a message.

Slowly though, it seems the social media push in Washington is part of a larger change, a change in the way government and politicians communicate.

[3:29] "In a way, the whole culture, exemplified by government, is moving toward this more conversational aspect of deliberation, of interaction...it is a little bit more human but it's inviting more people into the process. In some sense it's just broadening the base of the conversation as well as changing the human tone of the conversation," said Lee Rainie who directs the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.

Listen to the complete story above and join the conversation below.

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Marilyn

    Fire them all!

    October 1, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. RR Moore

    Wait until the Republicans see this – Unbelievable, Very Powerful, just when I thought the truth no longer existed.
    Watch "Bishop E.W. Jackson Message" on YouTube. FREE AT LAST – FREE AT LAST!
    Pass it on. It's going viral.

    October 1, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. athensguy

    Congress has pimples?

    September 28, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    Congress has been totally stymied by Obama, himself. His puppet Reid is stopping all bill sfrom the House, in the Senate, and not even allowing them to come up for discussion.

    Obama is the true source of the problem with Congress. Obama personally, is the problem. He NEVER compromises, he never accepts defeat, and he always goes around Congress, if they won't accept his demands. He IS a dictator......there is NO question!

    September 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boner

      Yes, Obama is the problem. Not the Congress who, upon learning that Barrack Obama was elected to the presidency, announced that they would do everything in their power to make sure he would not be re-elected.
      Always goes around Congress? Never compromises? Never accepts defeat? Look at his landmark legislation.
      I'm talking about "Obamacare." Remember what happened? He made every compromise possible. He backed down on so many levels, allowed the Republicans to tell him what was going to be in the bill, and he still smiled and signed it into law after they had stripped it down to, more or less, a bare bones legislation compared to what it would have been had it been passed as he wanted it.

      But Obama isn't the problem. He's part of the problem. The real problem is Government. It's time we reform Government and start all over again. That's what our forefathers would have done and even said in the Declaration of Independence that when Gov't gets too big for its britches that it's time for us, the people, to strip it down and start all over with a new government.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Andrea Jackson

    it would be a good thing, if every American who can vote, went to the polls, and every time a Congress or Senate member was up for election...they be voted out and start over with fresh new minds, with the common sense to negotiate and compromise...our Congress and SEnate have let the American people down and it is time to vote them all out and start over. They have all proved they won't compromise, which is a must for all to prosper, which is what they are elected to do...for ALL of us..not just the 1% pulling their strings, we all have to admit, most of the Congress and Senate are worthless and using their offices for personal gain, it is time to say NO to them and demand compromise and do what they were hired to do....

    September 27, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • CAC

      Not likely!

      September 28, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    Vote Smart and Defeat the non Working Republicans. They are collecting wages, benefits and have not done a days work in 3 1/2 years. Lets fire them and elect those that want to help this nation, the economy, jobs, health care. And work with President Obama.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • athensguy


      September 28, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Boner

      Why just the Republicans? Let's get the Democrats out as well. Senate Democrats block just as much as House Republicans do.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |

    To all the previous comments I read – hey you guys, you're just having an online conversation with each other, not writing a thesis. When I was younger I used to correct peoples grammar like I did my kids. My husband has a BA, BSC, MBA and LLB – I did his homework and typing for him. I was constantly correcting his grammar. He was raised in a lumberyard with a bunch of construction workers and talked just like they did – and never changed. Some of my friends took me to task about my bad habit of correcting him and everyone else – they told me it wasn't important as long as everyone understood what people were saying – whether it was PROPER or not. I wound up after 34 years talking just like he did! The only thing he ever said when he got tired of me was, I know what i'm saying.
    I don't know about our new communication. I listened to a group talk at the Technology Policy Institute and an author, Andrew Keen had written a couple of books: Digital Vertigo and The Cult of the Amateur. How today's online social revolution is "dividing, diminishing and disorienting and how today's Internet is killing our culture. Then I started watching all the teenagers – with the gadgets in their hands and glued to their ears, at the table, in a room full of people and even when you were talking to them! I think he was right. I have a blog and write and vent my spleen on all the things that go on in the world – especially the actions of politicians.

    September 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      'killing our culture'... Culture is a changeable thing. Trying to state that something 'always was' is a fallacy. The'Golden Age' , of any stripe, is a myth.

      Change is constant.

      What this barrage of information (of which social media is but a part) must force us to be more discerning as to what we see, hear, read. We (the average we) aren't yet. I can hope that that time will come.

      The 24 hour news cycle, another part of this barrage, gives us information quickly, but it is incomplete information. We have to learn patience.

      Blogs, articles, sites... often without unsubstantiated sourcing for their stories... We have to learn to do our own research.

      Social media sites give us information and windows into our friend's habits. We cannot assume 'oh, he thinks the same as I do on X' anymore. We can find out. I have found out things I think I'd rather not know about old friends. This will either teach us tolerance (Yes, we disagree, but we're still friends) or intolerance (We disagree, I don't care that we've been close friends for a decade, you dislike X, you have to go!)

      I can hope that we as a race will learn to deal with this. But I do know that some will deal with it better than others.

      September 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jonquil

    Oh, I don't know. I get the idea of forming campaigns "of the future" and bonds with constituents. But I'm in Gen Y and I'd be content if they could just show-up and do their jobs. Maybe, even, occasionally take votes on things. It's already irritating enough that they take two vacations a month; it would be outright infuriating to read their tweets about just how much they're enjoying themselves, living lives of lesiure, while Washington and America crumbles.

    September 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kweso

    Mr Crap-O cracks me up.

    September 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ProperVillain

    A bigger "presence" in social media means absolutely nothing. The message is still the same, more useless words and empty promises. Politicians are nothing but yes men for their financiers. My generation, the next generation, the generation before mine, it makes no difference. Each generation has managed to put a bunch of empty headed suits whose devotion to a "party" and their rich financiers will always trump what is truly good for this country and the average American. Tweet away. Post away. The only difference social media makes is that there is now MORE BS out there to see....

    September 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |

      You are right. When those guys come to their home state to visit their constituents, which means all the people in their district, they don't – they get together with a group who sent them, not the people who voted for them or didn't, but are supposed to represent them all. They have a little pow wow with their friends and make sure the media is there to see them shaking hands and patting each other on the back. Some of the people in their district and state have never seen them face to face, nor shook their hand. If you write one of them or call their office about something, you get a letter which has been preprinted, with a bunch of crap and nothing pertaining to what you had called about – sort of like a canned speech. After 64 years of voting and watching everything they do – I realize they are a useless bunch of jerks living off the welfare of the tax payers!

      September 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. madmatt

    The ability to lie faster to more people!

    September 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ProperVillain

      Amen to that...

      September 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Doug

    I can't help but laugh at the poor republican senator from Idaho, sporting the last name Crapo.

    September 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Missy1982

      Seriously. Must be so terrible to be a United States Senator, speaking for an entire state on policy issues, serving on both the elite "Gang of Six" and Fiscal Commissions and likely presiding over the Banking Committee next Congress. Oh Doug, to be you instead!

      September 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. josh rogen

    presidents now rule by decree, congress has become irreverent, only coming out of their cash grabbing stupors to rubber stamp, or pointlessly nag.

    September 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lisa Desjardins

    Hi guys,

    My boss Dan and I wrote the headline and this debate warms my inner grammar nerd. We need more of this. So, here's the deal. AP style prefers the single s' but increasingly others (thanks NoTeaForMe) allow the double (s's). Keep in mind AP Style is guided in part by attempt to save ink. We don't have that issue in cyberland. I also think less is more but here, it's a coin toss. Either is good.

    September 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. E Lizzle

    I'd imagine Congress is terrified at the idea of having to account for their decisions and behavior in near-realtime.

    September 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      "I'd imagine Congress is terrified at the idea of having to account for their decisions and behavior."

      Fixed that for you. 🙂

      September 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
      • VEW2012

        "I'd imagine Congress is terrified at the idea of having to account, in near real-time, for their decisions and behavior."

        Fixed it for you.

        September 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Here is a question to: The President, the House, and the Senate; 'Are you better off today than you were in 2008?'.

      September 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  16. J0nx

    What is Congress's? It's Congress'. Didn't anyone teach these 'reporters' grammar at school. Sheesh.

    September 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoTeaForMe

      Check The Chicago Manual of Style. The " 's " is acceptable usage.

      September 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • batjones

      Thank you very much – I guess the reporters forgot that proper grammar and punctuation are valued outside of the social media genre.

      September 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrea

      If you pronounce the possessive "s" then you write "'s" instead of just tacking on an apostrophe.

      And you really shouldn't compain about their grammar, considering the fact you ended a question with a period.

      September 26, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grammar King

      Congress's or Congress', either one is correct J0nx! Do some research before you condemn.

      September 26, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • Going In Circles

        C l o w n g r e s s

        September 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • ben

      congress is singular dumbass

      September 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |