Trump Can Win More by Tweeting Less
When we look back on elections decades from now, 2008 and 2012 will certainly be known as the years where social media first became a force to be reckoned with. Barack Obama's successful 2008 campaign was largely built on his ability to connect with young voters via Facebook. And in 2012, all major candidates across both parties heavily relied on social media to execute key parts of their campaigns.
But, despite these early case studies, 2016 will be the year politicians and historians study with great intrigue.
Of particular interest will be this question: how did candidate Donald Trump leverage Twitter to reach the masses?
Now, as we enter 2018 – the second year of President Trump's first term – the question many supporters and detractors are wondering is, will the POTUS ever stop tweeting?
Is Twitter Helping or Hurting Trump, the President?
There's no question that Trump's affinity for Twitter had a positive impact on his ability to win the election in 2016. Not only did he use Twitter as an avenue for cutting through the media attention he received from mainstream news sources, which was overwhelmingly negative and biased, but he also used it to control the conversation.
During the election, a single Trump tweet could send the 24-hour news cycle into a tailspin. Trump and his team knew this, which allowed them to essentially control the news cycle for most of the election. It was a hugely successful tactic, and he still uses it today when he wants to deflect attention.
As clever as Trump has been with Twitter, it's also pretty easy to see the other side of things. Because Trump's tweets are usually quite direct and harsh, they have a way of alienating certain groups of American citizens (as well as digging an even deeper trench between his administration and the opposition).
In this sense, Twitter is no longer his greatest ally. In terms of bringing the country together and creating some semblance of unity, the social media platform is now hurting Trump and his credibility.
The second year of a presidential term is always important. It's the first year that an administration really has a chance to take a breath and put into action some of the agenda items it has been considering. If the Trump administration wants to continue winning – and, don't let anyone fool you, there have been plenty of wins to date – it might be time to shift gears.
Media personality Laura Ingraham put it best in December when she said, "Perhaps the time has come to put aside a few of the Twitter battles. I like the tweets, but not all of them. And now it's time to humanize the agenda you've been fighting for."
Ingraham went on to talk about the fact that predecessors like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were great at showing emotion but often lacked in the "action" department. Trump is really good at taking action and could become the first president in many years to be both empathetic and decisive.
"I like seeing you out among the people. I like seeing you with children, the elderly, factory workers, volunteers," Ingraham continued. "You can be really charming, and you can be really warm in person and it's time to let more Americans see that."
Issues Trump Can Evoke Empathy With
Laying off the harsh Twitter rhetoric is the first step. Then Trump needs to fill this void with something. There are obviously plenty of opportunities for this administration to connect with the American people, but Trump would do well to engage on issues that cut the heart of who people are and the issues they're experiencing on a day-in, day-out basis.
Here are two key issues he could start with.
1. America's Addiction Crisis
The very first thing Trump should begin with is America's biggest public health issue: substance abuse.
As Drug Treatment Finders explains, "There are millions of people who suffer from substance addiction and mental health disorders every year; and sadly, because of social stigma, a lot of those people refuse to seek treatment, continue to live with their disorders and destroy every aspect of their lives."
What better way for people to feel less stigmatized than by seeing key leaders in this country discuss their struggles in terms that are relatable? While most people aren't aware of this, Trump has actually seen some of the ill effects of abuse and addiction up close and personal.
In 1981, Fred Trump, President Trump's older brother, died at the age of 43 after a long fight with alcoholism. While he doesn't talk about it much, the president calls it "the saddest part in what I've been through."
To this day, Trump has never had a drink of alcohol or even so much as puffed a cigarette. He credits his brother Fred with this, who frequently told him, "Don't drink. Don't drink."
In the midst of the opioid crisis and rampant alcohol abuse, this is an issue that Trump could use to humanize himself and connect with the American people.
2. Student Loan Debt Crisis
If there's another topic that people on both sides of the party line are interested in solving, it's the student loan debt crisis. Republicans and Democrats alike are tired of the way universities and colleges are scalping students and want to come up with a better solution. What better way for Trump to appease a broad spectrum of voters than by finally putting together a proposal that works?
The exact execution is obviously a political mess, but having frank conversations on the topic – something presidents have shied away from in the past – would help him make his cause sympathetic.
Less Twitter, More Empathy
President Trump's affinity for Twitter means we probably won't see him go cold turkey, but there's certainly a case to be made for cutting out the one-liners and instead focusing on how he can be more relatable with the American people.
Trump has been highly effective to date. But can he be effective and empathetic? Now, that would be a historic combination.