Using Twitter for Advocacy

Throughout history, advocacy has been used a strategy to help create awareness for an idea or cause, identify allies and partners, build coalitions, as well as influence shifts in attitudes and/or public perceptions. History has also taught us that major shifts resulting in the empowerment of an oppressed group occurred because of advocacy and not because the dominate group relinquished some of their power voluntarily for the betterment of society. Advocacy means having difficult conversations, taking a stance against the majority, going against long-held traditions, and challenging widely accepted beliefs.

ADVOCACY highlighted in greenIt’s not uncommon for someone in the majority or unaffected group to label someone advocating on behalf of a minority group as being “Radical” or not being validated by the majority of people. If this is the standard for assessing the existence of a problem, slavery would still be legal, LGBTQ Americans would still be in the closet, women would not have a voice, and Dreamers wouldn’t have the right to dream.

The purpose of advocacy is to speak up on behalf of those who are not being heard, falling through the cracks, and/or trapped within the margins as a result of policies and legislation with intended or unintended consequences.

If you can only engage in conversation or interact with people accepted by the majority, how does this affect your ability to advocate on behalf of those without representation? If someone raises an issue that does not align with the majority, why not investigate, identify the affected, and talk to them in order to draw your own conclusions? Advocacy requires a thick skin and the willingness to stand on your beliefs even when it’s not popular, and this is applicable whether your are championing someone else or yourself.

For week 4 of the Evidence based twitter chats, I wanted to explore engaging in advocacy on twitter. Dr. Kristie Holmes, a Congressional Candidate in the State of California, participated as a guest in the wake of the Supreme Court decision McCutcheon vs Federal Election Committee.


I used the live twitter chat format to encourage participants to use the #McCutcheon hashtag which is also being used by various advocacy groups to mount protest in favor or against the decision. By engaging in the Social Work Helper tweetchat using the #swhelper hashtag, I wanted to show how using a second hashtag in tweets could do two things. (1) Influence discussion of tweeters monitoring the #McCutcheon hashtag (2) Create a presence on the #McCutcheon hashtag by a specific group which in this case was social workers. You can view the full archive of the live chat using this link:

Best Tweets of the Week

Challenges, Barriers, and Limitations

From comments and feedback that I have received, social workers and students may feel condemned or pressured to not engage in debate whether its politics related or others areas if not widely accepted by the mainstream profession. Also, when using the twitter chat format with a research focus as I have, problem identification and hypothesis is a necessary component. However, a six week format on different topics for the purpose of research can diminish being solution focused when the nature of research is investigative.


Today, April 13th at 3PM EST using the hashtag #SWHelper, I want to do an assessment of the past four weeks to see what adjustments can be made to improve the last two topics of the twitter study. Next Sunday, April 20th is Easter, and we will not have a tweetchat on that date in observance of the holiday. However, we will resume on April 27th and May 4th for the last two topics of the Evidence Based Twitter Study.

McCutcheon Decision: Anatomy of a Policy Distraction


It is not my intent to diminish the import or significance of the McCutcheon v FEC decision. Obviously, this court composition has shown itself to be happy to adjudicate cases erring on the side of pure Juris prudence even when in opposition to precedence. I have an opinion on that, but my current point is that THAT DISCUSSION about the make-up, activism, and bias of the court is not the story of democracy.

Let’s engage in an exercise where we actually break down the logic in the ways that we are taught as policy analyst rather than resorting to emotional reactions based on a basic mistrust of money. I am in favor of laws requiring full disclosure of donors and sources of sponsorship. Yet, I am not with those who lament that the latest Supreme Court decision on related to campaign finance spells doom to our democracy. My analysis pivots on two questions. First, what is the fundamental activity of our democracy? Second, how do we operationalize that fundamental activity?

Two Questions
These two questions are important because their answers demonstrate the perspective guiding those who answer. I am in favor of a perspective that recognizes how grassroots organizing carries the day beyond political ads and fundraising dinners. The bottom line is that if the candidates I support are upset because they are outmatched by the money, they have lost sight of the equation that 3.2 million dollars from one donor is matched with $1 from 3.2 million individuals. I will wait while you make the larger realization… 3.2 million individuals offer a greater voting block—the core of democracy—when compared to the money of one individual.

Content Analysis
What is the fundamental activity of our democracy? It is the right and responsibility of every citizen to vote. Universally across the country, the voting experience is a private, unencumbered activity between an individual citizen and a ballot. In some polling places, the action is still shrouded in a booth with a physical curtain separating the voter from the influences of the world outside.

We must not lose sight of this fundamental activity. As policy analysts, we see content analysis as our opportunity to examine McCutcheon v FEC for its literal content. The decision limits the ability of the government to set limits on the contributions of any one citizen to a political campaign. Any argument based on the content of the decision necessarily sets up agreement or disagreement with governmental powers. We can have that discussion, even that disagreement, but the content of the case must not be a proxy for other discussions. The content of this case was not about corruption–bribery of elected officials. As shown in other criminal cases, most recently the verdict concerning Ray Nagin, the former New Orleans mayor, money accepted by elected officials in order to provide unfair advantage to donors remains illegal.

Process Analysis
How do we operationalize that fundamental activity of democracy? We have to activate our abilities as citizens within our sphere of influence. Get involved at whatever level you are comfortable with. Then, challenge yourself to act beyond that level of comfort. Every phone call, every presentation, every door you knock on, every check you write counteracts the money spent. We have to educate ourselves, inform others, mobilize voters, and construct the narrative.

As policy analysts, we see process analysis a our chance to examine what the McCutcheon case will mean in practice. This is where every citizen has real opportunity. One characteristic that separates the wealthy from the middle and poor is their political activity. Wealthy folks, certainly for a number of reasons, are more politically active. Yet, as far back as Howard Dean fundraising and as recently as Obama 2008, we are witness to what well-organized, grassroots campaigns with dedicated volunteers can do.

This case is a good example. Keep in mind, according to the NY Times, 43 percent of the 1% are non-republican. Republican-leaning citizens making more than $500,000 per year are deficit over economy focused, comfortable with more non-government solutions, and active in politics. We cannot allow the faulty logic of money amplifying one opinion over another to mask the reality that we each have a way to provide alternatives to those highly financed voices. We can vote. What’s more, we can support the vote of others. Not just the right, but the actual activity. Realize what the NY Times revealed about those with money. They are politically active, and that activity is not confined only to making contributions. They support others to make contributions, but they also make phone calls, host dinners, message friends, and speak within their venues of influence. Do not fail to realize the reality that those venues have fewer people in attendance than the other 99% of venues.

Granted, the Citizens United decision allowed for contributions from corporations. Granted, this McCutcheon decision increases limits for individuals. Still, I would like to think that people make their decisions about who to elect based on merits and research rather than political ads and billboards. I am further willing to ensure that reality through informing others. I will reiterate my appeal that we support disclosure so that we know where the money comes from and who all the donors are.

Please do not acquiesce to the position that the people, all of us, are less powerful than the relatively few, extremely wealthy individuals. Once we give in to that view, it ceases to matter what the law is. At that point, we have relinquished our greatest power– to organize ourselves.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Constitution Center

Republican SCOTUS Deals Another Blow to Democracy

In past administrations, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has been known for its role in being one branch of a three prong checks and balance system whose purpose is to prevent an imbalance of power within the government. Past supreme courts primarily remained apolitical while handing down decisions based on the spirit and the letter of the law even when it was not popular with the majority of Americans.

Official_roberts_CJThis is evidenced by a series of decisions that led to desegregation of schools, equal rights for women, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to name a few. However, the Robert’s court, one of George W. Bush last gifts to the American people, led by Chief Justice John Roberts  continues to use its power to dilute the rights of the Republic in order to reallocate those rights to the richest 600 people in America.

The last ruling by SCOTUS in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission in a 5 to 4 split removes campaign spending limits placed on donors. Republicans hale this ruling as a win because now rich donors can spend money to support candidates advancing their causes all over the United States without running into any donor caps. Democrats are mounting protest against the decision because they believe its will give money more speech over millions of Americans who can not afford to be heard.

Dr. Kristie Holmes, a social worker and professor, running for Congress in California has experienced first hand the challenges qualified candidates face when they are not independently wealthy. According to the LA Times, Holmes released statement said the ruling, “Continues to erode our nation’s campaign finance laws that were enacted to protect political equality”.

Join us today at 3PM EST for a live Tweetchat with Dr. Kristie Holmes, @DrKristie, using the hashtag #swhelper. This is also week 4 in our Evidence Based Twitter Chats, and we will be looking at using Twitter for Advocacy. In addition to talking with Dr. Holmes, we will also be weighing in on the conversation by adding #McCutcheon to our tweets in protest of the SCOTUS decision.

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