Politicians and the Twitter Train

Let me paint you a picture: I sit down before class begins and open my Twitter app. I aimlessly scroll through my feed and come across a tweet from the President ranting about nuclear weapons and “little rocket man.” I think, “this must be a parody twitter account.” Something about the unnecessary capitalization of words, the blaming, and the nicknames for political colleagues leads me to believe that our commander in chief could not possibly be responsible for them. I am always wrong. @RealDonaldTrump is back at it.

Since his bid for president began in June of 2015, there seems to be an upsurge of political Twitter activity. Not only has Trump set the tone for political dialogue on Twitter between citizens, but elected officials are also joining the ranks. However, the norm for Twitter etiquette of politicians has changed. No longer are politicians tweeting about their most recent bills via a press-release or a photo of them with a group of constituents, their activity is pointed and casual.

While liberals may use Trump’s overly-casual Twitter activity to push an agenda and garner support, Trump is not the only one. Democrats and Republicans, men and women, staffers and officials—everyone has hopped on the Twitter train. Could this type of Twitter activity possibly help create a civil political climate?

Let’s look at a few positive aspects that have arisen from the surge of activity. First, Twitter doesn’t require a subscription fee like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Washington Post. Anyone can search any information on Twitter, making political discussions more accessible. Second, constituents and/or news sources can use Twitter to keep politicians accountable for what they say. For example, Trump cannot tweet at “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” or “Fake Tears Chuck Schumer,” and then get on Twitter or Fox News and deny what he said. The record is right there, and anyone can find it. Except, of course, for the late night tweets of “covfefe” or “hamberders” that will promptly be deleted with embarrassment. Yes, Trump has been known to deny what he tweeted or change the meaning of what he said, but the record is there. If he calls someone a liar or calls for a witch hunt, we know. Twitter acts as a direct channel from the people to Washington, cutting out middlemen and cutting straight to the point.

While increased accessibility is always (I would argue) a positive thing, let’s look at some negative impacts of Twitter on the political world. Part of the unfortunate nature of politics is the tendency to place blame on the other party. Whether it be lack of progress on a specific issue or a government shutdown *cough, cough*, politicians love placing blame. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Congresswoman from New York, called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with #WheresMitch when he was M.I.A. leading up to House members leaving for the weekend. In an ever-growing polarized political world that already lends itself to blaming, politicians don’t need another venue to criticize and blame their colleagues, deserved or not.

At the risk of sounding like an octogenarian, I think Twitter has, in fact, hurt our political climate. It has added fuel to the fire of blame, manipulation, cynicism, and uncivil dialogue. Unfortunately, this platform of 326 million monthly active users is not going anywhere anytime soon. While there is no fix-all remedy, each person has a responsibility to raise the bar of civility in their own sphere of influence. Refrain from replying to a thread of political tweets with a snarky response. Follow accounts that promote different opinions than your own. Do your part to elevate the civil dialogue in your own sphere.

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[1]  www.twitter.com lol

[2]https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2013/03/21/what-twitter-has-meant-for-politics-and-what-it-hasnt/?utm_term=.94472a1ef9ba

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Jayne Edwards

Jayne Edwards is a senior from North Salt Lake, Utah (yeah, it’s a real city. 84054.) She is studying Public Relations, with a minor in Japanese. Jayne plans to go to law school after graduating in April, but stay tuned folks. She loves lists, so here are a couple. Topics Jayne is interested in: education policies, women’s rights (aka human rights), criminal justice reform, gerrymandering. Food Jayne likes to eat: cereal, grilled cheese sandwiches, ramen, quesadillas, ice cream. Things Jayne likes: skiing, watching cougar football, picking sunflowers, singing and dancing, driving with all the windows down, crying when she sees a sweet old person.

Jayne Edwards

Jayne Edwards is a senior from North Salt Lake, Utah (yeah, it’s a real city. 84054.) She is studying Public Relations, with a minor in Japanese. Jayne plans to go to law school after graduating in April, but stay tuned folks. She loves lists, so here are a couple. Topics Jayne is interested in: education policies, women’s rights (aka human rights), criminal justice reform, gerrymandering. Food Jayne likes to eat: cereal, grilled cheese sandwiches, ramen, quesadillas, ice cream. Things Jayne likes: skiing, watching cougar football, picking sunflowers, singing and dancing, driving with all the windows down, crying when she sees a sweet old person.

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