Twitter launched in 2006, but didn’t really find its footing as a social media platform until March 2007, when it became the talk of that year’s South by Southwest festival. The site quickly transformed from a widely derided showcase for irrelevant narcissism in 140-character bits—an easy refrain at the time was that Twitter existed for users to tell the world what they had for lunch—to something more expressive, expansive, and often downright weird. (Eventually, Twitter would be credited with a key role in world events such as the Arab Spring.) In February 2008, right around the time he celebrated his fifty-sixth birthday, Texas’s then–junior senator John Cornyn signed up. In the years since, he has taken to the platform like a man born to it.
A recent analysis of the Twitter habits of each member of Congress from Washington, D.C.–based public affairs consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies found that Cornyn was, in fact, the most prolific tweeter in Congress over the first three months of 2021. During that time, he (or someone in his office) sent nearly 2,200 tweets and retweets. That’s more than double the number sent by the second-most active member of his party—Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona—and nearly 1,400 more than Texas’s junior senator Ted Cruz, who’s the third-most prolific GOP tweeter. Cornyn’s closest challenger to the title of Congress’s biggest Twitter-head is Democratic Pennsylvania congressman Dwight Evans, who sent an impressive 1,740 tweets over the first three months of the year. While social media is often stereotyped as a haven for millennials and zoomers who want to waste time, seven of the nine most active Twitter users in Congress are in their sixties or older (fellow Texan Lloyd Doggett, at 74, is the fifth-most prolific tweeter in national elected office).
Cornyn’s tweets come in a variety of forms: the personal (remember his brisket?), the cryptic (often unattributed excerpts from articles he’s read), and the snarky (“It’s summer, Chuck,” he wrote in response to a 2019 tweet from Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer noting that July was the hottest month ever recorded on the planet). Sometimes Cornyn wants to push a policy position such as border reform, sometimes he wants to let you into his life, and sometimes he just wants to make fun of his rivals with a beer.
The psychology of what drives Cornyn, who did not respond to a request for an interview, to tweet so much is fertile territory for exploration (the Texas Observer has offered a thorough and humorous analysis). But ultimately, whatever led Cornyn to embrace the platform as a means of self-expression is as opaque as many of the senator’s own tweets. Rather than dive into the psychology, let’s focus on Cornyn’s volume, because hoo boy—it really is prodigious. Cornyn’s 2,198 tweets in the first three months of the year average out, roughly, to one tweet from the senator every hour of every day.
To be sure, Cornyn’s 24 daily missives are mere drops in the ocean: some 500 million posts are shared on the site every day. But comparing Cornyn to other heavy Twitter users gives us some sense of how much he posts. Kim Kardashian West, who owns the site’s eleventh-most followed account, is a power user—but a sporadic one. On days when she has a new product or episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians to promote, she might post or retweet thirty or forty times. But over the past month, she averaged only seven or eight posts a day, a mere third of the output of Texas’s senior senator. Newly minted Texan Elon Musk, the site’s twenty-third-most followed user, is relatively restrained in his output compared to Big John. Musk averaged about 7.5 tweets a day in the first quarter of this year—although any one of those posts can cause a global swing of billions of dollars in the prices of various cryptocurrencies, not to mention Tesla stock, so perhaps less is more for Musk. Cornyn, of course, doesn’t land in the same bracket as those titans of social media influence. Kardashian has a whopping 69 million followers and Musk 52 million, while Cornyn has just 304,000. But with his 24 average daily tweets, Texas’s senior senator has got hustle.
Most often, his tweets are around twelve words or so in length, with the occasional extra-pithy zinger or long personal anecdote. That means that, while Cornyn is a prodigious tweeter, he’s not particularly wordy. It took Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison just six months to write the 180,000 words that make up the 85 articles of The Federalist Papers; Cornyn, at his Twitter pace, would max out at around 52,000 words in that time. That is more than ten times the length of the U.S. Constitution, however, and longer than The Great Gatsby. He may not match the output of Hamilton, but Cornyn is still cranking out half of a slim novel’s worth of tweets every three months, a pace that would have made him employable during the pulp era.
More than his sheer output, Cornyn’s tenure on Twitter is notable, in part, because he’s such an early adopter of the platform. His account predates that of Musk by sixteen months, and that of Kardashian West, a name synonymous with social media, by more than a year. He was also on the service for seven months before Weird Twitter icon @dril joined, and a year before Cruz, who was then just an attorney in private practice in Houston, signed up.
Cornyn’s investment of time and energy into the platform exceeds that of names far more closely associated with it. What is it about Twitter that allowed the sexagenarian senator to take to it with the enthusiasm of a zoomer on TikTok? We may never know the answer to that question. But we bet that Cornyn has tweeted again since the moment we asked it.