President-Elect Trump once again started his morning with a series of Tweets – and thereby started the media’s day.
As I wrote in a short WSJ comment, “Initially I was bemused and skeptical over Trump’s use of Twitter as a communication platform. As time has gone by I have changed my sentiments. He is connecting with his base daily – citizens feel – and in some ways actually are – involved with our government and its issues. And that alone is a positive thing.”
Trump’s use of Twitter initially elicited derision from most folks – the left, the press, the political pundits – and much of the right. But it also resonated with some of those who mattered the most – middle Americans – folks who felt abandoned and ignored – even betrayed – by their government. Seeing daily messages from then-Presidential candidate Trump told Americans he was speaking directly to them – that he cared about their thoughts, opinions and concerns. He cared about them.
His use of Twitter also showed Americans that he believed what many of us have maintained for years – that most of the press is inherently biased and not to be trusted. He validated that premise and he bypassed the press in the same tweet.
There were calls by the media, along with folks on both the right and the left, to set down his phone – it was a time bomb waiting to explode. He was too uncontrolled and wild. He sent out messages that were often shocking and strident. But Trump largely ignored those calls – and he didn’t stop.
What he did do was become somewhat more disciplined in his use of Twitter. He altered his themes and messages just as he altered his public speeches as the election wore on. I watched Trump undergo what I think was a calculated transition as the election moved forward – and after his win. His initial statements were meant to be attention-grabbing and populist. He attacked his primary opponents with vigor and without hesitation – often wildly so. When he secured the candidacy he began to sharpen his focus and his attacks. As the election ground towards its end he changed the tone and context of his rally speeches – he began to focus on specific issues – and allowed Hillary to attempt to defend herself while he said nothing. When he won I thought his acceptance speech was great – and showed the world a different Trump. Throughout the campaign he changed, evolved, altered and adjusted – subtly at times and abruptly at others.
When I first heard the phrase “Crooked Hillary” I scoffed – and please note that I despise the Clintons like almost no other political figures – the phrase sounded churlish and childish to my ears. But it resonated with much of his base. And it stuck. These phrases and sound bites – “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”, “Lyin Ted”, “Crazy Bernie”, “Pocahontas” – they fastened themselves – and defined those people in a way they could not shake. Why? Because they captured exactly what many felt about those being labeled. Jeremy Sherman, an epistemologist, called it a “nounism, a taxonomy, identifying what subspecies of winner and loser people are.” Trump’s labels were concise and absolute.
I found his reaction to the phrase “Drain the Swamp” telling. I actually liked this one better than some of his others – but Trump allowed publically that he was not initially a fan of the phrase. Now stop for moment and think on what he said. He didn’t like it but he saw the reaction and it grew on him as well. He was trying these “nounisms” out – strategically – to see if they would work. They sounded coarse and immature to many of us but we remembered them. I know that Hillary called Trump a lot of different things yet I don’t really remember most of them – I do remember Crooked Hillary.
And this is why I think Twitter has been such an effective – if sometimes annoying – medium for President Trump. He recognizes the power of short, concise statements in a way that many of us do not. Most of my posts end up being longer than I intended. I often need to edit myself back – cut text out. When I tweet I can find it frustrating to be restrained in my thoughts to 140 characters. Not so with Trump. He understands better than I, the power of a short, direct statement. There’s not a lot of ambiguity in the tweet “Fake News”. You may not agree – but you know exactly what Trump means and where he stands. His use of Twitter is effective even while some mock it. It works.
A Trump tweet from eight hours ago states simply “The “Unaffordable” Care Act will soon be history!”. And with that short eight word statement everyone in America knows what is going on, what’s the current focus and where things are going. That short tweet conveys opinion, intent, action and result. A rallying cry for his base – and a guarantee that the press will be covering that issue throughout the day.
His most recent tweet shows a somewhat different side of President Trump.
“A beautiful funeral today for a real NYC hero, Detective Steven McDonald. Our law enforcement community has my complete and total support.”
These are the kind of sentiments a great many of us had hoped Obama might have conveyed during his frequent and lengthy lectures – uh, speeches. Obama is a great speaker and can make a terrible situation sound like a personal achievement. But his speeches always held a note of condescension – a tone of disdain. His frequent use of “Let me be clear…” sounded a lot like “You are not as smart as I am so listen closely while I tell you what to think…”
Not so with Trump. He doesn’t try to use soaring rhetoric that makes him sound above the populace. He is the populace. His talk is plain, simple, direct – and refreshing to my ears. I admit it took some adjusting for me personally, but it didn’t for much of America. And guess what? Trump is not the President of the Elite – he is the President of the People.
And I think that is a great and refreshing thing.
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