‘$40 Means’: Social Media Push for Tax Cut Extension

December 22, 2011

The refusal of House Republicans to go along with the Senate approval of a two-month extension on President Obama’s middle-class tax cut has spurred a media frenzy over speculated fragmentation within the Republican Party: between Senate and House, between the Tea Party-aligned and non-aligned. It has been referred to ironically as a ‘Christmas present’ from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party for the 2012 presidential race.

Photo credit: independent.co.uk

On Dec. 21, CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer asked Rick Santorum whether he was “with House Republicans or Senate Republicans” on the payroll tax extension (to which Santorum replied that he would not side with either, but if in office he would not vote to extend the middle-class tax cut).

On Dec. 22, Fox News ran a video on its website attributing the debate over two-months or an immediate one-month extension as contentious evidence of ‘congress playing chicken with your [U.S. citizens’] money’.

Photo credit: whitehouse.gov

Now, latching onto the media buzz surrounding this ugly political fumble, the White House has created a social media campaign featuring two methods of persuasion intended to incite a sense of urgency and awareness about House Republicans’ lack of action.

The first is a digital – day, hour, minute, second – count-down clock on the White House homepage, introduced by a banner that reads: ‘If the House doesn’t act middle class taxes increase in’.

This social media campaign isn’t just the President’s attempt to pressure House Republicans to pass the extension; it’s also a perfect opportunity for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to piggy-back the White House social media campaign with their own cyber efforts to gain influence for the DCCC 2012 campaign.

The second is starting an online and on the air discussion about what forty dollars, and a potential forty-dollar decrease from your paycheck, would mean to you, as a result of the failure of the House to pass the two-month extension (either by voting down the bill or through inaction).

Spurs House Speaker tweet. Photo credit: news.blogs.cnn.com

The White House is using their website to advertise many ways to respond, including a form on the website, Facebook status updates, YouTube video posts, and Twitter tweets using the hashtag #40dollars.

CNN featured ireport video response.  Sites like Hashtracking and Topsy feature stats.

According to Macon Phillips (via Tweet); the White House director of new media, they were getting White House website responses at a rate of 2,000 per hour on Dec. 21:

The White House encouragement of commenting before a decision happens may give citizens a long-absent feeling of agency in the political process, although the impact of these YouTube and Twitter responses will likely not be felt in the offices of elected officials.

With just nine days left, this novel cyber campaign is necessarily limited by the hours ticking away on the digital clock, but this urgency, combined with the utilization of a variety of social media outlets plus the piggy-back campaigns to come, makes this new White House push a potential splash in the pool of political social media campaigns.

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