Donald Trump, His Twitter Habit, and Lebron James
Why Twitter Works for the President
I had a typical reaction to the tweet that has triggered Donald Trump's latest twitter controversy: the tweet saying that Lebron James is not very intelligent. At first, I did some research to see if it was actually legitimate. With Donald Trump, after all, it can be very difficult to distinguish fact from fiction at first glance. While some of the stuff that I have seen online over the years turned out to be fake Trump tweets, I am continually amazed at how many have actually been the real thing. On average, the real ones are more outrageous than the fake ones. Whoever first said "you can't make this stuff up" was a genius.
But is Donald Trump some kind of a genius? The twitter barrage, after all, started long before he won the 2016 election. Clearly, this has been an effective communication method for him. Given how often he tweets, there is likely more truth to the belief that he won because of the tweets rather than coming out victorious in spite of them. There is also some debate about whether or not Trump is simply cranking these things out whenever the spirit leads or if he is carrying out some kind of a master strategy.
Whether calculated or spontaneous, it is not difficult to understand why the tweets are effective, although many people still seem to not quite get it. Today, many commentators are talking about the political backlash of this seemingly racist tweet, and they are speculating about the possible political damage to Trump and the GOP in general. While Trump may not always be the most thoughtful guy on the planet, he had to know that his tweet would piss off a lot of people - particularly NBA players - and would even be perceived by some people as racist. This whole scenario, after all, has been played out so many times before. The thing about these tweets, however, is that they are never overtly, definitively racist. He manages to write them in a way that leaves him and his supporters an opening to explain them away as something other than racist. He wasn't attacking black people in general. He was just calling two specific black men stupid, and he has called plenty of white people stupid in the past, right?
So why did Trump even chime in on this topic at all, a topic so likely to create a backlash? The only possible reason other than getting something off his chest was that Trump wanted to create a backlash. In Trump's mind, black people, liberals, and the media hate him anyway, so there is no point in worrying about pleasing them. The best way to strengthen himself politically is to excite his base, and few things excite his base as much as angry black people, liberals, and media personalities. He is looking for the backlash to the backlash, which feeds the climate of anger and fear on which he thrives and strengthens his narrative that certain people are always out to get him. There have been few things throughout American history, after all, that have instigated anger and fear into the hearts of "mainstream America" like angry black men. This may be one of the few historical facts that Trump knows, and it is why he cannot resist from commenting on black athletes who have the audacity to complain about him, police shootings, or anything else about American society.
The only question is who will win the battle of outrage. Will there be more people angry about the tweets or angry about the angry reactions to the tweets? Will people continue to be manipulated by fears that have been there since we were a bunch of British colonies? Or will we start to focus more on presidential actions and policies than on the outrages of the moment, and will we stop electing people to office who strive to bring out the worst in us?