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'Trump doesn’t use Twitter to govern. He uses it to stay in touch with the American people'

I am disheartened by President Trump’s tweets, and much more besides, but it’s past time to get real, writes Larry Donnelly.

Larry Donnelly Law lecturer, NUI Galway

“MY USE OF social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!” This was a @realDonald Trump statement earlier this month, one day before he tweeted a mock video of him body slamming a man with a red and white CNN logo superimposed over his head outside a professional wrestling ring.

The tweet included the text: “#FraudNewsCNN #FNN.”

The 45th President of the United States, while in office, has used the medium of Twitter in what most onlookers – even those in his own party – would say is an astonishing fashion. This tweet, however, using what can only be described as a farcical backdrop and showing the President using physical force against a supposed member of the press, is probably the most outlandish to date.

Using Twitter to connect with the American people

Putting aside the truth that how Donald Trump expresses himself on social media represents a distinct departure from the ordinary conventions and widespread expectations of presidential behaviour, there are divergent perspectives as to its political efficacy.

Writing in the conservative Washington Times, Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce opines that “the [wrestling] tweet was brilliant, anticipating a ridiculously overwrought reaction by the legacy media, and boy, did they deliver.” Furthermore, she points out that “the President doesn’t use Twitter to govern; he uses it to push back, interrupt the left’s narratives and stay in touch with the American people.”

On the other hand, this tweet, coupled with tweets attacking the female host of a national political talk show for “bleeding” from cosmetic surgery and castigating her as “crazy” and “dumb as a rock,” reignited serious speculation that President Trump could be impeached pursuant to the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution because of his inability to “discharge the powers and duties of the office.”

And a recent survey reveals that 71% of Americans think his use of social media is hurting his agenda.

His initiatives have been sidelined by the sideshow

It is indisputable that, not yet six months into its first term, the Trump administration’s purported priorities and policy initiatives – some of which enjoy popular backing (for example rebuilding American infrastructure); some of which excite only the right (like dismantling President Obama’s Affordable Care Act) – have mainly been overwhelmed by a never-ending circus sideshow that has unfolded both on and off line.

There are two quite conflicting accounts of why the White House has conducted its business so chaotically. The first, which has precious little tangible evidentiary grounding, is that it is all a masterful exercise in distraction and is purposefully designed to accomplish twin aims: the realisation of the sinister objectives of a tiny band of already very wealthy American conservatives and the enrichment of “Trump Inc.” Some on the fringes would add Russian appeasement to this list.

The second, which Washington DC insiders who can get beyond personal enmity for the president often espouse, is that their country is now in the hands of a small group of people who are amateurs when it comes to politics and government and who ultimately answer to a similarly inexperienced man with an outsized ego and thin skin who is temperamentally unsuited to be the leader of the western world.

In short, the happenings since January 20 that so many have watched with dismay are far more likely the product of gross misfeasance, rather than conspiratorial malfeasance. And although it is perfectly understandable that President Trump’s opponents lament the current state of affairs, it is vitally important for them to keep their eyes on the bigger political picture.

Increasingly conservative Republicans hold a dominant position

Commiserating conversations and larger protest rallies have unquestionable therapeutic and mobilising functions, but will not move the opinion poll needle too much on their own. Chanting “resist!” to fellow true believers isn’t a good strategy to reverse fortunes.

Increasingly conservative Republicans hold a dominant position in American politics at the federal, state and local levels. Donald Trump garnered considerably more Hispanic and African American support than anyone possibly could have predicted. And Republicans have won all four special congressional elections after he was elected.

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At this juncture, it is clear that President Trump will not be shamed into changing his unfortunate ways and that attempting to guess what will emanate next from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is futile.

With respect to the “fight back,” the Democratic Party collectively and sympathetic independents need to focus on the economic issues that most affect “Middle America,” to recapture “soft Trump” voters and, crucially, to frame criticism of the President and other Republicans in a way that is not offensive to the tens of millions of men and women who cast ballots for them.

Many on the hard left who are consumed by outrage at and hatred for Donald Trump and whose emotions lead them to deny where America and a majority of Americans are at in 2017 offer a path to potential electoral oblivion.

After all, the people could have voted for a conventional, hugely capable, accomplished woman to be their commander in chief last November. Instead, they selected a bombastic, anti-intellectual neophyte. The two candidates’ social media messaging during the campaign, perhaps above everything, highlighted how stark that choice was.

On that same day and subsequently, when deciding who to send to the US Congress, they faced a choice between socially liberal, outward-looking, diverse aspirants and a largely homogenous set of individuals with a far more culturally conservative, inward-looking disposition. They went for the latter.

I am disheartened by President Trump’s tweets, and much more besides, but it’s past time to get real.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston attorney, a Law Lecturer at NUI Galway and a political columnist with TheJournal.ie and IrishCentral.com.

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About the author:

Larry Donnelly  / Law lecturer, NUI Galway

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