For quite awhile now, I’ve lamented numerous times here on Cook’s Outlook about the dramatic lack of Arkansas Democrats using social media. Both on Facebook and Twitter, Democrats in Arkansas are woefully under-represented and disorganized, while Republicans have smartly created an organic online presence.
I’ve recently come to understand that because Arkansas Democratic leaders do not use social media effectively, if at all, then rank-and-file Democrats won’t either. Leadership starts at the top.
Let’s take a moment to compare and contrast one Republican state legislator with the Legislative Democratic leadership to make my point.
There are 7,382 state legislators in the U.S. and State Representative Loy Mauch (R-Bismarck) made the list of the Top 50 Worst Legislators in the entire country, according to TruTV. They had this to say about Mauch:
The newly elected state lawmaker says the Confederate flag is “a symbol of Jesus Christ above all else.” He’s also in the League of the South, a group that advocates for Southern secession. And until 2010, he was commander of James M. Keller Camp 648 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which held a conference in 2004 with a keynote address titled “Homage to John Wilkes Booth.”
Mauch’s beliefs are nutty, however, to his credit he has just recently started using social media the right way by creating a Twitter account and updating voters on his activities as State Representative.
Because Mauch is correctly using social media, I know he recently spoke to a 3rd grade class in Bismarck, attended a Governor’s Dislocated Workers Task planning meeting, and attended a Hot Spring County 4-H breakfast in Malvern. Mauch’s politics are way out there, but it sounds like he’s out there working and doing the job of a State Representative because he is smartly using social media to update voters, and the media, on what he is doing.
The disappointing contrast to this is the Democratic leadership in the State Legislature who do not effectively use social media. The leaders do not push a Democratic message or update voters on all of their hard work via social media. I know for a fact they are indeed working hard, but only because I happen to know them and have great respect for them as elected officials.
Legislative Democratic Leaders
Robert Thompson – Senate Majority Leader
Johnnie Roebuck – House Majority Leader
Paul Bookout – Senate President Pro Tem
Larry Teague – Senate President Pro Tem-elect
Robert Moore – Speaker of the House
Darrin Williams – candidate for Speaker of the House
Four of the above six Democratic leaders have Facebook pages, however most of them rarely, if ever, update their pages and as best I could tell, none of them have a Twitter account. It pains me to say it, but Loy Mauch is doing a better job at communicating with Arkansans than Legislative Democratic leaders.
Since Democratic party leaders do not use social media effectively, I don’t know what they’re fighting for as Democratic leaders or what they’re doing in their roles as elected officials.
I’d also add that Will Bond, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, has a Twitter account and a Facebook page. However, since August he’s only sent out 10 Tweets, in contrast to Loy Mauch who has tweeted roughly 22 times in the past 3 weeks.
I spoke with Bond today about social media:
“We encourage our office-holders to be focused on finding solutions for Arkansans first and social media second. The other side has a tendency to focus on creating these cute Tweets, but we want our people focused on creating jobs. We think Arkansans are more interested in people finding solutions and creating jobs then they are in 140 character Tweets. That’s not to downplay it though. The other thing we’ve done with our office-holders and candidates is to direct them more to Facebook first. We need to do better, I don’t discount that, but our emphasis has been a little different than the other side.”
Bond was correct when he pointed out in the interview that the DPA has created the Democratic Action Network, which is an impressive online organizing tool the state party has invested in to get Democrats ready for 2012. It doesn’t appear that the Republican Party of Arkansas has a similar tool, thus giving state Democrats an advantage in online organizing for now.
Bond is also correct about Facebook being the more widely-used form of social media. Nearly 1 out of 2 Arkansans you know have a Facebook page. 1,338,140 Arkansans have a Facebook page, or 46% of our population use this popular form of social media. However, as I mentioned, two Democratic leaders don’t have Facebook pages and the ones that do rarely use it.
I agree with Bond on the need to focus on finding real solutions first for Arkansans, but I would argue that Democratic leaders can create jobs and use social media at the same time. All it takes is a cell phone or a computer and you can instantly update constituents.
It’s frustrating that Democratic leaders do not communicate effectively, if at all, with Arkansans, while at the same time Arkansas Republicans are running circles around them when it comes to social media. Don’t misunderstand me when it comes to social media, it does not take the place of door-knocking, attending events, visiting senior centers, etc., but since it’s now an integral part of our social fabric, Arkansas Democrats must go where the voters are and communicate their message.
If one of the Top 50 Worst Legislators in the United States can use social media the right way, then surely Arkansas Democratic leaders can do the same.