America is arguably more divided than ever politically. In 2012 we voted to maintain the status quo with President Obama in the White House, Democrats controlling the U.S. Senate and Republicans controlling the U.S. House.
I covered Capitol Hill for many years before Twitter, Facebook, Congressional websites and high speed internet connections were the standard or even available to most people.
There's no question that social media and the internet have changed the way the message radiates out from the Capitol to the great unwashed from sea to shining sea.
After a Facebook post I saw this afternoon I'm not sure if all the advances in communication are serving anyone well.
What got me thinking about this?
A Facebook posting from Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey. Posted around 10 a.m. Wednesday, it reads:
"Ugh. GDP down 0.1. This is the worst growth since 2Q 2009. We need pro-growth tax reform now more than ever. Will the White House and Senate Democrats listen?"
"Ugh." "Ugh."? "Ugh."?!!
Back before there was an endless running faucet of social media a thought like this might have been kept to a U.S. Senator's inner circle (as they considered what action to take) rather than being deciminated immediately to the world.
Is it just me or is this the kind of message that says a lot more about the decision to post rather than about the opposing side's view? (While it has the Senator's name on it, it may very likely have been posted by a staffer without his knowledge-doesn't matter, it's his name on the post).
Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with Senator Toomey's expression of frustration, is this what we elect our federal representatives to do: Wring their hands on Facebook and social media?
An obvious question might be: 'If GDP is down, Senator, what are you and your GOP colleagues in the Senate going to DO about it? How are you going to make the White House and Senate Democrats listen?'
If the purpose was to whip up emotions and comments from consitutents on both sides, it worked. 106 likes and more than 75 comments were recorded on the post by 5 p.m.. the argument that social media is "a way of taking the pulse of voters" rings hollow since there is nothing scientific about Facebook and there are countless scientific polls on virtually every issue taken every week for politicians to go on.
Funny, I thought we sent our representatives to Washignton to debate, discuss and work things out. While taking the cause to Facebook may shore up the senator's politicial base, does it do anything at all toward solving the problem?
Senator Toomey is hardly alone in this kind of social media posting. Also on Facebook Wednesday newly re-elected Democrat Bob Casey (D-PA) posted a fawning homage to incoming Secretary of State John Kerry.
Is it any wonder Congress has the lowest approval ratings in recent memory?
Perhaps it's time to send the same message to our elected officials that many parents deliver to children who avoid homework in favor of spending time on social media.
"No more Facebook until you get your work done!"
At least our children aren't paying a staff member (with our tax money) to post social media messages that do not advance progress on any front.
We are 22 months away from the next Congressional elections. If something isn't done THIS year, it will probably be too late to expect anything but even more chronic campaigning.
January ends tomorrow, leaving 11 months before 2014, an election year. When you consider that February is a short month and Congress takes several weeks-long recesses that probably leaves about nine months in practical time to get anything done toward fixing the economy or accomplishing anything else in Washington.
There's GOT to be a better use of such limited precious time for our elected officials and their staff members than spinning or handwringing on Facebook, regardless of party or position on any given issue.