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Politicians can’t escape the social media jungle

Published January 07. 2019 12:17PM

One thing that new members of the 116th congress will learn fast is the influence social media has on the political landscape.

The news is constant, whether it’s social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+); microblogging (Twitter, Tumblr); photo sharing (Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest); or video sharing (YouTube, Facebook Live, Periscope, Vimeo).

Everyone in public office is under a spotlight 24/7.

Our favorite photo from last Thursday’s congressional swearing-in ceremony in Washington showed Rep. Brian Mast of Florida with freshmen lawmakers Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Jim Baird from Indiana.

In his tweet welcoming the two new members, Mast captioned the image “5 eyes. 5 arms. 4 legs. All American.”

Mast, 36, is a U.S. Army veteran who lost the lower part of his legs during an explosion in Afghanistan while working as a bomb technician.

Baird, 73, served in the Army during the Vietnam War and lost his left arm.

Crenshaw, 34, a former Navy SEAL, wears an eye patch after losing an eye in 2012 when an IED exploded in Afghanistan. He made national headlines last November after “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson mocked him and his eye patch during a sketch. He later appeared on the show as Davidson made a public apology, calling him a “war hero.”

The freshman class that was sworn in last week included 22 new members who worked for the CIA or served in the military.

No sooner did Democrats take control of the House than some began talking about impeaching President Trump. The most disturbing outburst came from Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who becomes the first Muslim-American woman in Congress.

A mother of two, Tlaib has been a harsh critic of President Trump in the past. On Thursday, the day she was sworn in, the Detroit Free Press ran an op-ed in which she shared a shared byline with John Bonifaz, co-founder of Free Speech for People, an organization that urges starting impeachment proceedings.

“President Donald Trump is a direct and serious threat to our country,” she wrote, “On an almost daily basis, he attacks our Constitution, our democracy, the rule of law and the people who are in this country.”

But it was the vulgar 20-second video clip later in the day that introduced Tlaib to the rest of the country. Speaking at an event for the progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org, she told of a conversation she said she had with her son.

“And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won, bullies don’t win,’ and I said, ‘Baby they don’t,’ because we’re gonna go in and impeach the (expletive).”

Of course, the target of Tlaib’s obscene rage was President Trump, and she was playing to a liberal audience who cheered her vulgar remark.

The clip was instantly shared on Twitter by Nestor Ruiz, a digital organizer for the immigrant advocacy group United We Dream.

Social media has made Washington a political minefield for politicians. Tlaib may have thought her gross name-calling was funny at the time, but thanks to social media, it is something she will never be able to erase from voters’ memories.

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com

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