Editor, Eat the Press
As more and more politicos turn to social media to enable closer communications between themselves and their constituents, we keep racking up lesson after lesson about what not to do with Twitter.
For example, we've learned that one should not use Twitter to breach security protocols while traveling abroad to war zones. We've seen that a lack of familiarity with hashtags could lead well-intended campaign operatives to become an unwitting ally to their own humiliation. It's been made clear to everyone that if you're planning a seat-flip coup in the Virginia State Senate, it's best to not tweet about it before it happens, because that allows your opposition to foil it. And most of all, we've learned that you should never use Twitter to send out a picture of your junk. Under any circumstances. (Seriously, don't even take a digital picture of that stuff.)
But the latest lesson comes out of the state of Missouri, where State Senate redistricting efforts are, in all likelihood, going to result in a few senators losing their seats. This is always a feature of redistricting efforts: There are winners who claim new advantages and losers who see their political careers erased from the map. But while coming out on the losing end of a redistricting plan is certainly frustrating for all sorts of people who go on to lose their jobs, it's probably not a good idea to use Twitter to put the people who would normally be your political allies -- and possibly your future bosses -- on blast.
Here's the backstory. In Missouri, a bipartisan commission, appointed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon and tasked with drawing up new congressional districts, has altered the landscape in St. Louis County, leaving two Republican lawmakers in the lurch. As KMOX NewsRadio reports:
The maps released by a bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon moved Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, whose term expires this year, into a district where she could not run for reelection.
"I am not drawn anywhere. I am in nowhere land," Cunningham said.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, would still live within his current district, but would be facing a more Democratic leaning electorate. Like Cunningham, Lembke's term expires this year.
Lembke is reportedly "surprised and disappointed." Cunningham, who seems to blame Nixon and a commission that is, to her mind, something one "could hardly call ... bipartisan," is reportedly "disappointed and surprised." But one of Lembke's aides, Jamey Murphy, was left feeling several steps beyond surprised disappointment or disappointed surprise. Rather, he was angry, and he took to Twitter to make his ire known. As Rudi Keller of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports, Murphy went off on a sustained tirade:
"Lembke gets screwed," his aide Jamey Murphy wrote in a Twitter post at 12:53 a.m. as the details of the plan emerged.
About 14 hours later, Murphy thought he had found out why. "St Louis should thank the Sen from Boone for no longer having conservative representation." The reason? "Schaffers (sic) district was constitutional but he sued and tossed the entire caucus under a bus for his own personal self gain."
Murphy later apologized via Twitter, and by today, the accusations and apology were deleted.
If anything, the Tribune doesn't quite capture the rage. Over the course of 20 or so tweets, Murphy zigged and zagged between indignation ("The party achieved one thing. Primary's in st. Louis county.") and desperate bravado ("For Lembke, nothing is off the table. A senate run in the 15th, Gov. u.s. congress, u.s. senate. All doors are open b/c the GOP failed him."). It was actually hard to determine if he was angry about his boss losing his seat or excited at what new opportunities await him.
And while Cunningham seemed to finger the opposition for her troubles, Murphy drew down on prominent Republicans, like the aforementioned state Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Boone), of whom Murphy tweeted, "Our appropriations chair only looks out for himself. This process is proof."
Murphy also took his fight to Lloyd Smith, the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, tweeting: "Lloyd smith is the 1 person responsible for this mess. Others played a part but he is the one to hold accountable." He also aimed scattershot criticism at the party in general: "The party has never been friends to my Candidates. It's time that we hold them accountable. This was a public attack on us."
The Tribune goes on to report that Lembke did not "learn of his aide's running commentary until after the Senate adjourned." In the immediate wake of finding out about Murphy's Twitter rants, Lembke stood by them, saying, "I believe Sen. Schaefer and a couple of my other colleagues were behind the lawsuit that threw out the map that the appellate commission drew." But at some point afterwards, heads cooled and apologies were made:
When Lembke learned about Murphy's messages, they took on a different tone. "Please remember that my opinions are my own and not my bosses." After Lembke had been visited by reporters, this appeared: "Sorry to senator Schaefer! In (sic) aware it's not your doing that we're in this mess!"
Later, the bulk of the tweets were deleted. Which is probably for the best. Murphy's tweet-stream now looks largely like the efforts of a loyal soldier with a knack for using the forum to advocate for his boss's policy positions in an articulate way. Someone you might expect to be a good hire, had he not just spent the day lighting up other Republicans.
At one point, Murphy pled for sympathy, tweeting, "What's the twitter world expect of someone who will be looking at an unemployment line in a couple of months?" Well, sure. Of course, maybe the best tactic would have been to take your suspicions of intraparty backbiting to some reporter on the statehouse beat and become their anonymous source, instead of spending time in public burning your bridges on Twitter.
[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]
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