@CoryBooker has just redefined Twitter for politicians
Chris Christie, New Jersey’s vast and vastly overrated Republican Governor, and the self-styled poster-child for competence-in-government, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, have had a bad, bad blizzard.
Christie refused to return to his snowed-in state from a family holiday to Disney World, leaving the third-in-line Democratic state-house speaker in charge because it turns out that his lieutenant governor is also absent, visiting his cancer-stricken father. (This detail was presumably meant to excuse them for the no-show, but doesn’t it just make Christie look like his holiday was too important for natural disaster and terminal cancer?).
Mike Bloomberg, meanwhile, has been cranky and unsympathetic in the face of growing outrage at New York City’s slow and inadequate emergency response. Both widely-hyped in the national media, these two fiercely ambitions politicians will emerge from this dreadfully-coined Snowcopalypse quite badly scathed.
Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey (population 250,000), has his own hype problems. The young, single and immensely charismatic Booker has a media profile extending far beyond the depressed and dilapidated town over which he presides. He is regular guest on talk-shows and cable TV, and his profile no doubt played a significant part in securing the $100 million donation to Newark’s public schools from Mark Zuckerberg, an act of largesse that suspiciously coincided with the release of a movie that made Facebook’s founder out to be something of a dick. This fame and glory helped deliver a reduced majority when Booker ran for re-election earlier this year. Not surprisingly, his residents are less interested in his appearances on Oprah and Meet the Press than in his apparently waning interest in solving their mundane problems.
if his conduct over the past few days is any indication, this message was received loud and clear.
Booker has surged to national prominence again in the past couple of days, but this time in ways that should delight the hitherto dubious Newark citizenry. BlackBerry in hand, Booker has literally roamed the streets responding to Mayday calls from snow-affected residents via his Twitter feed, wielding the resources of the City, as well as his own shovel. Take this nugget from the UK Telegraph:
In one highlight he quite hilariously called the bluff of one foul-mouthed man who asked why the mayor wasn’t helping him shovel. His response was: “Wow u shud b ashamed of yourself. U tweet vulgarities & then I come out here to help & its ur mom & sis digging. Where r u?”
Booker’s down-and-dirty Twitter strategy is well covered in the Washington Post here.
Politicians were early adopters of Twitter, instinctively grasping that the medium has great potency if not always quite understanding how. Political websites are almost universally awful, and the typical Facebook profile of an elected official feels self-serving and inauthentic.
Twitter, however, is an unflinching format — direct, honest and raw. It doesn’t just bypass the media — the main reason Sarah Palin and others love it so much — it has the appearance of bypassing staff, or at least when it is used well. Political offices that craft tweets in the same way they do media releases and speeches are wasting their time: a spun tweet is transparently so, and thus worthless.
Cory Booker, who has four time as many Twitter followers as there are people in the city he governs, has rewritten the Twitter rulebook. Politicians are nothing if not wildly enthusiastic copy-cats, and Booker’s superhero antics will set them alight with envy-tinged curiosity.
Expect to see a surge in interest in Twitter, even among the type of crusty pol who spurns technology as a matter of principle.
Watch as cities and states wake up to the power of Twitter as tool for communication, especially at times of emergency and natural disaster. (In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a better example than @corybooker of Twitter seamlessly melding the PR, the politics and the practical).
Next time most people will next hear of Cory Booker, it will be when he shoves Christie aside to become Democratic Governor of New Jersey, and probably then only in fleeting terms. But his Twitter heroism will reverberate wherever politicians seek new ways to ingratiate themselves with voters; which is to say, absolutely everywhere.