By Jeff Stein
This month, a debate has raged in left-wing circles over whether Senate Democrats are letting President Trump’s Russia scandals distract them and the resistance from attacking Republicans’ health care bill.
It turns out that Senate Democrats tweeted about health care twice as frequently as they have about Russia scandals over the course of the past week, according to a new analysis of Senate Democrats’ Twitter feeds, provided to Vox by the Progressive Coders Network’s Matthew Borg.
Still, the numbers don’t exactly suggest Democrats have exhausted their capacity to call attention to the dangers of Republicans’ health care bill. From Friday, June 9, until Friday, June 16, Senate Democrats sent out around 1,670 tweets over their social media platforms. Of those, 324 tweets — or about 20 percent — have been about the Senate Republican health care bill, the analysis shows. In other words, less than a quarter of tweets sent by these lawmakers are about what some argue is the biggest potential change in their constituents’ lives. (An additional analysis by Borg that included retweets and quote tweets puts the number higher, at about 28 percent.)
Here are two charts by Vox’s Alvin Chang of the Twitter profiles for each Democratic Senator:
Should Democrats be talking about Trumpcare more?
Left-wing activists have grown alarmed that the public and media are not paying nearly enough attention to the secret Republican health care bill being drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Some Senate Democrats are also frustrated. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) retorted at a press conference that he’ll now answer reporters’ questions about Russia by first talking about health care.
Unsurprisingly, some of the Senate Democrats who have tweeted most about Trump’s Russia scandals are on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the election. Sens. Martin Heinrich, Dianne Feinstein, and Kamala Harris — all members of the committee — have each tweeted more about Russia than they have about health care, according to the Progressive Coders Network’s statistics. Then again, Wyden is also on the Intelligence Committee, and he has tweeted about Trumpcare more than he has about Russia.
Polling suggests that while voters are concerned about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, the health care bill may be a greater political vulnerability for the GOP. A Quinnipiac poll at the end of May found that just 20 percent of the country approves of the bill, and 60 percent opposes it. Less than half the country is very concerned with the idea that Trump’s campaign had inappropriate contacts with the Russians, though 68 percent are “moderately concerned” by the charge.
A word on the methodology: A tweet was counted as being about health care if it contained any of the following words: AHCA, Trumpcare, health, care, healthcare, drug, medication, prescription, Obamacare, premium, deductible, CBO. A tweet was counted as being about the Russia scandal if it contained any of the following words: Russia, Comey, Sessions, Mueller, FBI, Flynn, “obstruction of justice,” collusion, Putin, Kremlin. Of course, this analysis doesn’t include other potentially significant metrics, like the number of times a Democratic senator mentioned AHCA to the press or held a press conference to denounce it.