President Barack Obama opened a new front on Wednesday in the battle
between Democrats and Republicans over the best way to avoid the
year-end "fiscal cliff" - Twitter.
The web-savvy Obama administration
launched a social media campaign that asks Twitter users to add the
"#my2k" hashtag to messages with examples of what $2,000 means to them.
amount is roughly what a middle-class family of four would have to pay
extra in taxes next year if Congress cannot strike a deal to remove the
threat of roughly $600 billion in tax hikes and federal spending cuts.
fast-paced social networking site known for its zippy 140-character
comments is a tried-and-true method of reaching Americans. The latest
call for such searchable references is an effort to pressure Congress
into finding compromise on long-held partisan views.
announced the new Twitter hashtag campaign at a news conference on
Wednesday. He and fellow Democrats, who oppose significant cuts to U.S.
"entitlement" programs such as Medicare as a way of balancing the
budget, have been trying to break Republican opposition to hiking taxes
on anyone, including the wealthy.
Promotions of "#my2k" quickly
went out to millions of followers of the White House Twitter account and
scores of Democratic backers, including former House of Representatives
Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Soon, "my2k" was a top-trending subject.
means food for a year, the remainder of my student loan paid off or a
full month of child care. $2200 can make or break a family," wrote
Twitter user Katrina Burchett.
In the anarchic spirit of social
media, Republicans, who also polished their Twitter hashtag skills
during the bitter 2012 presidential campaign, pounced quickly.
conservative Heritage Foundation bought the promotional tweet that pops
up at the top of the list if one searches for "#my2k" mentions, where
the think tank offered its own take on solutions to the fiscal cliff.
Speaker John Boehner and scores of fellow Republican lawmakers started
sharing examples they hoped would put the blame for the lack of a
resolution on the Democrats.
"We in the House took steps this
summer to avert #fiscalcliff and stop #my2K tax hikes," wrote
Representative Mike Turner. "It's time for @whitehouse and @SenateDems
'Being aware of what's going on'
Users on Twitter
can sign up to follow one another's messages, making searchable hashtags
a helpful way to sort by subject or theme.
Marcus Messner, who
studies social media at Virginia Commonwealth University, said Twitter
was a perfect environment to reignite Obama's base swiftly and gauge
public engagement on the issue.
The Obama administration has used
Twitter hashtags as part of lobbying campaigns to keep student loan
rates low with #dontdoublemyrate and to extend payroll tax cuts with
#40dollars, which was their estimate of how much the cuts saved an
average family each year.
White House Social Media Director Macon
Phillips later called the $40dollars hashtag "one of the most
significant campaigns we ran on Twitter."
"It's about being aware
of what's going on and understanding that in the age of social media,
you're just a participant," he told an Entrepreneur.com blogger in
February. "It's not something that you can control."
© Thomson Reuters 2012