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Expert comment: Trump - the Twitter President?

Donald Trump Tuesday 17 January 2017

Senior Lecturer in Politics Dr Robert Busby discusses President-elect Donald Trump’s unconventional use of Twitter and its potential repercussions. 

Trump’s use of Twitter as his preferred medium of communication creates a distinctive new dynamic to the way the President of the United States will work. Obama and many other political leaders have used Twitter and other forms of social media to make commentary on events, on policy, during elections and to convey an understanding of the changes to the contemporary forms of personal interaction. Trump in some respects is no different in his uptake of social media. However, in his campaign, Trump used Twitter to significant effect, often with controversial claims and sometimes marking pivotal moments in the presidential race. He waged an open conflict on fellow Republicans like Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney, using his chosen brand identities for his adversaries, like ‘Lyin’ Ted’, to undermine his opponents’ positions. The same strategy was used when he made his assault on ‘Crooked Hillary’. Posting a picture of Ted Cruz’s wife and comparing her physical appearance to Melania Trump prompted condemnation that Trump was overreaching in the realm of conventional political protocol.

The core problem is that Trump has acted in an unregulated way. It appears that presidential communication through well-crafted speeches and long-term considered opinions, backed-up by speechwriters may be gone. Trump, when agitated by an issue, takes to Twitter on his own accord with little recourse to those communication experts who might shape his messages to better effect. So far, this might have made Trump’s position refreshing and distinctive. However, when President, it is likely that the attacks on Trump, as a person and as a President, will increase in volume. Will it be possible for a political leader of his standing to respond to each and every agitation, or to become embroiled in Twitter wars that may relentlessly sap at his credibility?  Twitter has allowed Trump to reach his followers without having to go through mainstream media or to face a series of questions about his position or the complexities of his ideas. That too may serve to be a weak underbelly of his politics – that policy is not easily served up in a series of short statements and Trump, while changing the dynamics of who might be considered for the presidential office, may turn out through his impromptu messages to convey himself as anything but presidential. 

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