The State of the Union address is always an exciting time for political junkies. The proliferation of technology has continuously changed the address and created ample opportunities for the President’s supporters and opponents to express their opinions. No longer do Members of Congress have to file into Statutory Hall in the hopes of garnering a 15 second sound byte on the national news, although many still do. Politicians can now take command of their message and ensure it reaches their core audience.
Instead of delving into the policies presented in the speech, which many pundits already have, we are going to examine the ways in which Members of Congress leveraged the Web to ensure their voices were heard during the important occasion.
Following the Congressional Twitter stream on www.c-span.org, two Representatives stood out as the most active during the speech. Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA) was the most outspoken critic of the President’s address. It was revealed on national news the next day that the Congressman watched the address from his office instead of the House floor. During the speech he presented many critiques such as “Obama’s policies kill free-enterprise.” Ultimately, the Congressman’s efforts were rewarded as national news programs, such as Hardball with Chris Matthews, publicized Broun’s activities, giving the Georgia Representative more publicity than virtually all of his colleagues.
Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) was the most prolific Democratic Twitter user during the speech. The third term Congressman expressed elation and consternation at many of the President’s policy positions. The Congressman now has nearly 10,000 Twitter followers, a very strong number for a Representative. Organizing for America also tweeted live during the speech, repeating many of the President’s key phrases and policy positions.
After the speech concluded, many Members expressed their initial reactions via social media. Some Congressman took it a step further, delivering their initial remarks with video. While Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was delivering the official Republican response to the State of the Union, leading House GOP members including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) responded to supporter questions received via Twitter on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s YouTube page. In addition, Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) streamed his response live via UStream.
The White House joined in on the most wired State of the Union address in history. WhiteHouse.gov streamed the address live and had policy advisors answer questions from Americans following the President’s speech. In addition, the website had a seating chart identifying who was sitting with the First Lady.
Technology’s affect on the State of the Union is truly remarkable. The President even joked, as he was walking toward the podium, that the address had already been leaked for hours and there was no purpose for him to read it. Technology will play an even greater role in the years to come. More people will watch the speech leveraging a mobile device and Members of Congress will become more creative in expressing their views.
Lastly, as a side note, will a staffer please buy Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN) a DVR or Tivo. This is 2011, the technology is available to watch two things at once.