June 30, 2017

Do Twitter Tantrums Matter?

Do the words of the president of the United States matter? To ask is to answer.

Ronald Reagan’s historic standing as one or our nation’s greatest presidents is in part because he was a “great communicator.” In 1989, at the end of his second term, he responded to a question about his successful communication style with typical humility: “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”

President Reagan appealed to the best in us.

As I have written over the last eight years, the Democrat Party’s “divide and conquer” playbook appeals to the worst of human instincts — fear, greed, entitlement, envy, despair, brokenness, victimization and every line of divisive stratification, whether race, sex, social, economic, religious, cultural or ethnic. Its practitioners appeal to constituent “feelings,” in order to convert emotions into political capital.

At an editors’ meeting this week, we were revisiting Donald Trump’s triumph over CNN’s fake news fallout last week, the latest episode of Demo/MSM propaganda. This week featured one of Trump’s major initiatives, his energy policy.

But then, in the inimitable words of that sage, Yogi Berra, it was “déjà vu all over again.” Trump, or perhaps one of his communication strategists, posted a petulant social media message aimed at a couple of his equally petulant serial insulters at MSNBC.

The full spectrum of media outlets assumed that, just ahead of announcing his energy initiatives, Trump typed out a cheap shot at a couple of his vociferous Demo/MSM detractors. However, this post, like some others, could have been more calculated — as the net result was the Leftmedia expending all its bandwidth degrading Trump Tweets, rather than degrading his energy initiatives. And Trump’s social media fan demographic love his “brawling style.” There is a well-established pattern of these social media distractions, some of which appear to be solely Trump’s “inspiration,” and others that likely were team vetted.

The result is that Trump is famous or infamous, depending on your perspective, for using social media as a bullhorn to yell over the heads of the mainstream media. His colleagues don’t care for it. Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, author of “Understanding Trump,” observed, “You wonder, ‘Why does he undercut himself?’ And maybe eventually he will learn not to do it.” John Thune (R-SD), Senate Republican Conference Chairman, lamented, “I understand his desire to retaliate but he’s the president of the United States. I think people expect him to be measured, to have a thick skin, to take some of these shots. If you respond, respond in a way that deals with the issue, with a difference you have in policy, but don’t make it personal.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) noted, “If what we’re trying to do around here is to improve the civility and tone of the debate, this obviously doesn’t help do that.” Political commentator Charles Krauthammer protested, “It degrades the political discourse and it embarrasses the country.”

Whether you like Trump’s caustic communications style or not, the overarching question I would posit is this: Regardless of whether these occasional Twitter eruptions are initiated by Trump alone, or as a social media team strategy, do his words appeal to the best in us, or the worst?

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