WASHINGTON — Everybody's favorite senatorial tweeter, Chuck Grassley, is giving up his signature mix of personal observations, misadventures, and politics for a more staid, policy-focused approach to social media.
And it's all your fault.
Grassley, who in September will turn 80, has delighted the Twitterverse with random observations about life in Iowa, hilariously abbreviated sports scores, and spot-on criticisms of the History Channel's decidedly unhistorical programming.
But all that is going away thanks to the snarky — and, occasionally, downright nasty — responses to his tweets.
"I try to be more policy-oriented now than I used to be, not every little personal thing," Grassley said in an interview with BuzzFeed.
@ChuckGrassley in a happier time
Indeed, the Iowa Republican's last two personal tweets — about his granddaughters — were more than a month ago. And you have to go all the way back to the 1st of December to find any hint of Grassley's signature observational tweets, when he noted a dead deer outside his property — a not-so-subtle hat tip to his infamous "assume deer dead" tweet last year.
When asked why he was steering clear of his old style, Grassley blamed it on the reaction he got from the Twitterverse.
"I think it's a misunderstanding of what people thought my purpose was. And then, I was trying to abbreviate as much as I could, and I think people thought I didn't know how to spell, so I try not to abbreviate as much anymore, unless it's a kind of common abbreviation," he said.
Ironically, Grassley's uncensored, stream-of-consciousness feed has made him a Twitter sensation, and more closely approximates the ideal political use of the medium. Whereas most of his colleagues hand their Twitter passwords over to young staffers, who use them to push out stale press releases, Grassley had embraced it as a way to have a dialogue with his constituents.
"Thirty-two years I've been in the Senate," he said. "I probably did a little bit of this when I was in the house. I do some satellite feeds, I do some telephone town halls, I answer all my letters and stuff like that."
"Whether you've got this social media you're talking about or you do it the old-fashion way, what's this all about? It's all about making representative government work," Grassley said, noting, "What's representative government? Its got to be dialogue from those that have been elected and those we serve. So Twitter's got to be an example of everything I do to encourage conversation."
Grassley acknowledged that bringing his personal life to Twitter may not have a direct effect on governing, but argues it is important.
"I don't know the extent to which it promotes representative government, but it does let people know if they want to communicate with me on Twitter they communicate that way," he said.
And Grassley clearly gets the social nature of Twitter. Asked if his colleagues ask him for advice, he chuckled. "No, but if they do I think it's kind of tongue-and-cheek. if a colleague talks to me … [it's because] people like to follow something that's kind of different. They compliment me for being the chief Twitterer of the Senate. But I think there's at least two — [Sens. John] McCain and Claire McCaskill, I think they've got a lot more people following them than I've got."
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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