WASHINGTON, September 5, 2015 — Campaign finance is a big story; the reality is that big money has, for way too long, financed our candidates and guided their policies. Senator Barack Obama promised to eliminate the influence of lobbyist on the political process. Obamacare has proven that, via lobbyists, insurance companies are the only ones with a real voice in the health-policy process and the biggest winners.
Today the bigger campaign story is social media as a campaign tool. As a means of access to voters and an indicator of who is following a candidate, social media are the great equalizer.
Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton both have big money support from traditional sources. (Image represents 500 donators out of nearly 8,000 courtesy of Center for Responsive Politics)
This cloud features donations to Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rand Paul Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graman, George Pataki and Carly Fiorna, and many of those donors are hoping to have a hand in crafting policy for the next presidential administration.
But they may be tossing their dollars down a bottomless well that doesn’t reach the voters.
Bernie Sanders has benefited from a free social media presence, repeated and amplified by enthusiastic supporters. This lets him compete with a millionaire like Hillary Clinton and has put him on the national stage.
But it’s Donald Trump who has the 140-character message down.
Start with campaign finance reform. Trump does not want your money, and that message is resonating. Voters and media alike are drawn by his message of independence from donors. He is too big to be corrupted.
— Grabien (@GrabienMedia) August 20, 2015
Trump, who has more personal money than every other presidential candidate combined — in the last decade — took a clue from Obama and is out social media-ing the Democrats. In the 2016 race, @RealDonaldTrump is effectively using social media to mass effect, and seems set to continue doing so. He is reach his voting base with scarcely any advertising expenditure at all. And they are responding to his message – first and foremost that he will not solicit or accept campaign donations.
@RealDonaldTrump recently tweeted
I’m turning down millions of dollars of campaign contributions—feel totally stupid doing so, but hope it is appreciated by the voters.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2015
But its not the 4 million twitter followers that matter most in this modern day telephone game in which one tweet can be retweeted, and retweeted, and retweeted. When everything works, the reach of a tweet has no limits.
Congrats everyone–we topped 4 million today on Twitter–and heading up fast!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2015
Looking at those Twitter headers, an interesting story emerges:
Clinton and Trump are close in numbers of followers, however the Tweets counter discrepancy is huge.
Neither Bush or Sanders is even close, though, as said, Sanders is using social media effectively.
McCain-Feingold, meant to keep big money from dominating politics, has not worked. The 400 richest people in America are the largest supporters of “their” candidate, and as Trump often says, those supporters who give millions of dollars to their candidates do expect a bit of quid pro quo, whether it’s an ambassadorship or a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
What makes it all interesting is that social media messages are received differently than 60-second campaign commercials. It’s harder (not impossible) to get in too much trouble in fewer than 140 twitter characters. Those who read that tweet, or view the Instagram commercial, or are lucky enough to catch that Snap Chat message before it disappears don’t react the way media does.
A tweet contains a few seconds of information; people read, and they go on. It’s the total package, not the single line that CNN, Fox News and MSNBC commentators pick apart, overanalyze and package back into a single, snappy sound byte designed to either support or destroy a candidate.
Give them enough information, and they’ll craft a single line to hang a candidate with.
Social media removes the context of what a candidate is saying far more effectively than Bret Beir or Wolf Blitzer. And while the MSNBC talking head might say, “We can’t send millions of immigrants out of the country, oh the humanity,” the Twitterverse is smarter than MSNBC. They know what they believe and respond to Trump, who says “I hear you America – we can be great again.”
They don’t hear an anti-immigration message, or an America-is-bad message. They hear that we have a problem. And I, Donald Trump, builder of buildings and billionaire, will fix it.
Those responding with their retweets and favs know that politicians, Republican and Democrat, have done nothing to fix America’s problems. Obama has played the problem for his own political ends, to his own benefit, and now America is suffering not from immigration, but illegal immigration.
Americans are generous and ready to accept new immigrants, and they know we have room for more new Americans, but Obama’s immigration program is unconstitutional and destructive to our economic infrastructure and safety.
America is tired of political promises after having them broken time and time again by politicians from President Obama to the 2014 Republican Congress led by John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Neither Obama nor the Republicans have accomplished one promise they made to improve America.
Texas hero laid to rest. I’m SO SICK of Obama’s America!
Social media users who become voters will remember this tweet:
According to the polls, and Twitter, Hillary Clinton is not just a #liar, but a brazen one.
Hillary Clinton is a brazen liar (in 30 seconds). pic.twitter.com/gQPMwpD45d
— reason (@reason) September 2, 2015
People will remember this more than they will remember her infrequent speeches. Unless they’re turned into 140-character messages. @Clickman8 manages to twit her on three of her bytes in exactly 140 characters.
Wipe the server w/a cloth? Snap-Chat MSG disappears? Load immigrants in2 Box-Cars? @HillaryClinton's quite a comedian! Let's leave it @ that
— Aka @Clickman8 (@Asher_P_Fly) August 29, 2015
And mainstream media, notice that millennial and other voters don’t care what you think.
— Sonya A. Willis (@JangoBear) July 28, 2015
But they will respond when the candidate tweets out your bytes
Americans do appreciate a candidate who, even if they don’t agree with him, is honest. Most candidates tell you what you want to hear. But many believe that a candidate like Donald Trump will hear you — even if it’s only 140 characters at a time.