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But not Twitter. With just 140 characters per tweet, roughly a third of the space for a Facebook status update, Amash said it’s just too difficult to fully explain votes.
Thomas Mann, a Congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, said Amash’s posts explaining votes are unusual.
“Members often include statements in the Congressional Record explaining their votes, but a comprehensive accounting of all votes on Facebook certainly raises the ante,” he said.
The Facebook ritual may also be a product of Amash’s age. As the youngest freshman Member, he came of age when the social networking site took hold.
Regardless, Mann said Amash will have a tough time keeping up his entries considering how many votes pass through the House each day. He also said the practice may stale with constituents considering the amount of “symbolic and inconsequential votes” that occur every day.
Some politicians refrain from explaining votes so that years later, when circumstances change their opinions, they don’t get pigeonholed to their former, now-unpopular reasoning.
Amash admits the likelihood of being pinned to his words in the future, especially since his opinions are forever documented on Facebook, but he isn’t worried.
“I’m not scared to rewrite history down the road,” he said. “When I give an explanation for my vote, it’s based on what I believed at the time. I’m not concerned that down the road I’ll be wrong about an item or two — that’s a given. It’s just the way the world works.”
Last Wednesday, Amash explained more than a half-dozen votes that he cast that day. Some days he posts more and others times it’s less, depending on the number of House votes.
But even on the busiest of Congressional days, Amash doesn’t plan to slow his vote explanations because he has received positive feedback on his practice.
“I’ve received very positive reactions not only from Republicans but also from Democrats and independents,” he said. Most of the time he encourages them to adopt his ritual, though he doubts many will since it requires constant updates.
His vote explanations have also endeared him to the media. The New York Times printed an 800-word spread about his Facebook page in April, and Glenn Beck mentioned Amash’s Facebook page on his show.
But the best benefit of an active Facebook page? A happy constituency, he said.
“People write me messages telling me that even though they may disagree with my positions, they like that I’m transparent,” he said.
Other people — sometimes hundreds in one day — message him about his voting records. He tries to respond.
“I can’t possibly respond to every message that comes to me, but I do my best to respond to any messages that relate directly to how I voted,” Amash said. “It depends on the day. Some days I don’t have as much time to respond.”
On April 9, 7,000 people “liked” his page. A week later that number jumped to 8,000 and by Tuesday it was more than 9,400.
That may not be as many as Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) 95,000 or Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) 40,000, but it sure tops some leadership “like” numbers. Minority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) pages, for example, have about 3,000.