Hillary's Tweet Dragging Us All Down
A thought that has run through my mind recently is just what Hillary Clinton's campaign strategy was going to be in defeating Trump surrounding rhetoric and policy. I saw there to be three options. Clinton could continue her status quo of acting the sober and level-headed candidate - which appeared most "presidential."
On the other hand, Clinton could fly to the other end of the spectrum with her campaign and start using the same guerilla-like tactics Trump has utilized up to this point (which has been alarmingly successful). And the third could be a mix between the two. What has starting to happen the closer we come to November is a bit of the third, middle-way strategy, but also a slow and concerning shift to the second strategy: cheap rhetoric.
In the midst of Clinton obtaining the nomination and the Obama endorsement, she made the following tweet at @realDonaldTrump:
While it may seem to be a futile and unimportant point to bring up, I will argue that this is a crucial turning point in the Clinton campaign, and reveals exactly which path she has chosen to take. While Trump has arguably been more agile and kinetically competitive on the social media side of the election, Clinton's team has seen their losses in this arena and seem to be changing their strategy to a less traditional, insult-oriented, low grade set of attacks. Earlier in the campaign, Clinton repeatedly retorted Trump's campaign with large words and high-bar criticisms, even calling Trump a "presumptuous nominee." Her strategy has now changed, fighting fire with fire.
And the response in terms of sheer popularity should not be taken lightly; there is something much more worrying and concerning when it comes to this shift in Clinton's strategy. Even though Twitter is only a small microcosm of Hillary's rhetoric, it is an essential measuring stick in how supporters are responding to her.
In Clinton's last 50 tweets before Obama's endorsement, the average amount of likes on her tweets were 8,900.
Clinton's most recent tweet against Trump written five hours before this article was published has already garnered 300,000 likes (and will most likely climb). That is 34x the average popularity.
What does this tell us? Low-grade rhetoric is what consistently sells and is what becomes most popular. The Clinton campaign has lost in this regard because Trump has been the vanguard of this cheap rhetoric and has forced Clinton to conform. Some would argue this is what Twitter sells, and one cannot conflate this tweet as a representation of her campaign, and the greater rhetoric of the election.
I say au contraire, and worry that it will seep, and in some cases already has, into other realms where we receive our news. This tweet speaks volumes about the state of our politics and this election as well. More broadly, we must ask ourselves some very important questions:
Will we continue to forge a path where cheap insults are valued higher than actual policy? What kind of long-term impacts does a platform such as Twitter have on our politics? I certainly do not condemn Hillary for using such tactics - it may end up being the kryptonite that defeats Trump, but it is imperative we view it as a loss for us all, regardless of party orientation.