By Katherine Wang
“TODAY WE MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
President Donald Trump’s tweet celebrating his victory on Election Day is now a trending hashtag used by his avid supporters. While some may cringe at the familiarity of this slogan, one fact remains true: it is undoubtedly one of Trump’s many tactics to continuously remind the media of his presence.
Presidential communication has long been regarded as vital to establishing trust between a government and its citizens. Naturally, many presidents have developed ingenious methods to communicate with their citizens, such as Franklin Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” or Dwight Eisenhower’s use of TV commercials. However, since his first campaign announcement in 2015 to his ongoing presidential term, President Trump has used an unconventional medium to engage with the public: social media, specifically Twitter.
Today, President Trump’s Twitter has 36.7 million followers and more than 35,000 tweets. Just one look at this account can reveal Trump’s remarks on current news and controversies prevalent throughout the US. It can also exhibit Trump’s popularity with other Twitter users, as well as his complaints towards certain individuals. Despite the seemingly unimportant cascade of news, Trump’s ability to navigate social media provides him with an invaluable asset in politics: the ability to converse with the public without any filters.
Trump’s Twitter conveys the idea of a politician who attempts to be transparent. In May, Trump posted his opposition to news outlets, tweeting, "The Fake News Media works hard at disparaging & demeaning my use of social media because they don't want America to hear the real story!” His firm belief against “Fake News Media”, including CNN and the New York Times, illustrates his desire to communicate with the American people without journalists crowding in his way. Essentially, Trump wants to give people the real, unaltered news without an in-between source.
In addition, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defends Trump’s Twitter. While there have been many calls to ban Trump’s Twitter account, Dorsey believes that “it's really important to hold them [those in leadership] accountable… [I]t’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.” He brings up the alternative: “So if we're all to suddenly take these platforms away, where does it go? What happens? It goes in the dark. And I just don't think that's good for anyone.”
Trump’s tweets also hold accountability for his political actions. For instance, this June, Trump witnessed his own tweets being used to block his travel ban, with a US appeals court citing that his tweets are official statements that cannot be omitted or looked upon lightly. As a result, the court banned Trump’s order to prevent travelers from six Muslim countries from entering the US.
On the other hand, Twitter has also led to negative relations between the president and the people. According to CNN, about seven in 10 Americans believe that Trump’s tweeting habits are a precarious way to communicate, as they are often misunderstood. In fact, nearly half of Republicans believe that his tweets may be misleading to other world leaders. Furthermore, a Post-ABC poll records that more than two-thirds believe that his tweets can be insulting and inappropriate. Polls sometimes portray an accurate depiction of the public’s belief towards a certain event or action, and in this case, it is apparent that Trump’s tweets may not be effective in demonstrating proper etiquette for someone in a high position of leadership.
While Trump’s tweeting habits has its advantages (transparency and accountability) and disadvantages (improper behavior), it is certainly effective in establishing a relationship between the president and the public. However, whether that relationship is filled with trust or wariness differs among various individuals. Trump’s Twitter account serves as a reminder of FDR’s “fireside chats” -- a unique and innovative method in vocalizing his beliefs towards his citizens.