Bartlett: Enough with Twitter
President Donald Trump’s inability to reign in his Twitter account is problematic.
To say that the presidency of Donald Trump has been tumultuous is an understatement. As is the case with any first-term president, there have been highs and moments of excellence and there have been lows and shocking gaffes — the verdict is still out on which is more significant. Within the policy whirlwind that has occurred as Trump transitions from his gilded apartment to the White House, the president’s continued reliance upon Twitter stands out.
Such is a common complaint among constituents — so common, in fact, that a survey conducted in late June by Quinnipiac University revealed that 61 percent of registered voters questioned believe that “Trump should stop tweeting from his personal Twitter account.” Many are quick to cite what they see as inflammatory dialogue targeted at other key Republican figures, as well as attacks on Democrats and foreign leaders as part of their opposition to Trump’s tweeting. Others are quick to point to Trump’s occasional dissemination of misinformation as the more problematic of the two. While both are valid grievances, the true dilemma lies not merely in the content of each tweet, but in the manner in which Trump approaches tweeting. Particularly, the notion that Trump is acting of his own volition and communicating without any semblance of formality or recognition of the influence of his office is troubling and could cause irreparable harm to American political discourse.
In order to understand the reaction to Trump’s actions on Twitter, one need merely turn to former President Barack Obama’s page. Never was it utilized in the same manner. Each post was well articulated and seemingly planned. Benign political jargon akin to campaign sentiment and pictures with children or animals dominated the page; nowhere to be found are personal attacks or inflammatory accusations.
Therein lies the key disparity between Obama and Trump. Obama’s Twitter talked at his audience as if it were quoting tidbits of dialogue from a soliloquy. Trump’s Twitter talks to other users as if the president were having a conversation. Trump’s syntax is erratic, his vocabulary is colloquial and his content is raw and unfiltered. While this style of communication is enticing to constituents who have grown weary of soundbite-laden political discourse, the office of the president is no place for personal problems and gripes. Trump’s predecessors utilized reticence in communication with the general public not because they lacked the personality to spew invective and toss about allegations but because they respected the formality and boundaries that come with great responsibility.
To many, Trump’s tweets provide a sense of authenticity that is lacking within the sterile world of American politics. Sadly, Trump’s desire to continue acting and speaking in the same manner as he did before his inauguration is trouble. He is no longer merely a man with immense wealth; he is the president of the United States. His every word is not his own; he is speaking for the nation. Everything that is said by him, everything that is done by him and everything that is associated with him are no longer solely reflections of American values — they are American values. Yet Trump continues to act as if his opinion were his and his alone. So long as he holds the presidency, that which he espouses will be conflated by the world with the beliefs of the United States and its citizens.
The president’s inability to recognize the link between his personal beliefs and the perception of the nation and his inability or unwillingness to alter his behavior is best displayed when he lambasts other American politicians. In censuring congresspeople and governors, he willingly pits a nation against its elected representatives — willingly pits the electorate against the elected. This is as unforgivable in principle as it is disrespectful to Congress, and it is hardly conducive to a cohesive democracy. With every further attack Trump submits to the Twitter feeds of millions across the world, the integrity of his office withers.
Since grade school, I have been reminded of the permanence of the internet, of how that which I regret will remain. The president is not exempt from this paradigm. The global and political implications of each and every one of Trump’s tweets will always remain, no matter how much we ignore them. Now more than ever it is paramount that Americans do not allow the sheer quantity of his posts to render them innocuous. He speaks not in the best interests of the country but in the best interests of himself. It is time for a change.