What can I say? It’s a brave new world.
Long gone are the days of relative isolation from the public eye—the days when FDR’s physical decline was easily kept a secret and candidates for office in the 50s and 60s had to wait until the evening news to sell themselves to families huddled around their television sets. The streaks of sweat that terrorized Nixon in 1960 have become the least of our worries.
Nowadays, candidates and elected officials have dozens of social media accounts to keep track of. When it comes to Twitter, the office of President Obama, for example, has his @BarackObama account (run by Organizing for Action), his @WhiteHouse account (run by his White House Communications team), his @OFA account (also run by Organizing for Action), Michelle’s @MichelleObama account (run by Organizing for Action), Michelle’s @FLOTUS account (run by the Office of the First Lady), and the president’s newly established @POTUS account.
“Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States,” he writes in the description.
These handles, like those of many politicians with the typical personal and official Twitter accounts, are managed, proofread, and meticulously perfected by entire teams of communications experts that are devoted to each one. Rarely are tweets submitted without going through multiple stages of editing by staff members. Tweets from the president or first lady are often signed “-bo” or “-mo,” but those are scarce and difficult to verify as authentic.
This model has grown in the last couple of years. More and more political players are using Twitter to spread their messages far and wide. The term “Social Media Team” has become a part of the campaign lexicon.
But there is one model that seems to be gaining some incredible outreach and success.
Donald Trump has flipped the reigning model on its head, tweeting from his account himself. He has thrown out all standard political traits (decency, respect for opposing candidates, refraining from ad hominem, fact-checking claims) in order to appeal to a, quite frankly, very confusing? demographic.
Trump has already gotten in trouble for some of his tweets. For example, this one:
has landed Trump in hot water with critics that are not pleased with his misogynistic comments and disrespectful rhetoric towards women. Trump has no apologies—he refuses to hold back.
The “retweet” has also stirred the pot for Donald Trump, as he frequently retweets material from “white genocide” activist groups, racist Twitter users, and most recently, Mussolini fans.
Unfortunately, his tactics seem to be working. Donald Trump has already clinched 680 of the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, and he is leading in the polls in places where primaries haven’t been held yet. If Trump successfully receives the nomination, he would become the first major presidential candidate to possess such an unhinged and unfiltered social media persona.
In the future, perhaps other politicians will adapt their own sensibilities to such a model, using Twitter to express their personal views and attack their opponents in a fast-paced and dangerously public way. Regular citizens are becoming part of the discussion by reaching out to or getting retweeted by politicians like Trump.
Who knows? Perhaps if Donald Trump is president, laws will face the scrutiny of his Twitter followers. But be careful—he takes many things to heart.
No one is safe from the Donald.