Donald Trump is attacking foes on Twitter like he’s campaigning
WASHINGTON — The president-elect’s social media followers didn’t have to wait long.
Just a day after TV networks called the race for Donald Trump in the wee hours of Nov. 9, and after weeks of relative discipline, the incoming Republican president was back on Twitter to denounce the demonstrators who were marching against him in several cities.
“Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting,” he tweeted to his 15.7 million followers. “Very unfair!”
It was classic Trump: a statement of fact, followed by a questionable assertion, followed by a grievance. And then an exclamation point.
Between the election and Monday afternoon, Trump had tweeted 37 times, and nearly half could be considered hostile or defensive, according to a Globe analysis. He bemoaned what he called The New York Times’ “highly inaccurate coverage.” He whacked “Saturday Night Live’’ as unfunny. He slammed the cast of the hit musical “Hamilton’’ as “rude” for telling Mike Pence the new administration should work on behalf of all Americans.
The dispatches are a sign that Trump will continue to flout the expectations of the political class for a president. He appears to be continuing the revolutionary — and, so-far, stunningly successful — mass communications effort he pioneered during the campaign, choosing bluster, bombast, and simple phrasing over carefully calculated and nuanced messages.
With his tweets, Trump captured big gusts of media attention. He often diverted attention from other, sometimes less flattering stories about a somewhat chaotic Cabinet search, selection of loyalists and immigration hardliners as key aides, and concerns that his sprawling business interests are creating conflicts of interests.
Jay Baer, a social media strategist for corporations, said Trump’s tweets are genius — whether intentionally or not.
“They’re very simple. They always are only about one thing. Very focused. Small words,” he explained. “Most people make the mistake of trying to create tweets that have a degree of nuance — but that actually makes that piece of communication weaker, not stronger.”
Trump’s tweets, Baer said, almost always have a first sentence and then a second thought with an exclamation mark. That “encapsulates how he thinks people should think, feel or act. It’s a set up — and a punch line that delivers.”
The recent tweets are an extension of the direct conversation Trump began with people when he launched his run for president, said Jonathan Karush, a Boston-based social media and digital strategist.
“It’s unpolished, often unmoderated,” he said. “I think it’s effective because of the conversational tone and the feeling of honesty and lacks the varnish of Washington and our politicians which have become distasteful to a lot of people.”
The tweets also have the advantage, some critics say, of redirecting attention away from thorny issues such as the intersection of his business and political lives, raised, for instance, by Trump’s meeting with Indian business partners last week.
But several GOP observers doubt there is much plotting behind the missives.
“His tweets have the ability to divert from other news, definitely,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican operative. “But I don’t think it’s any kind of set strategy; it’s just Trump being Trump.”
In the closing days of the election, after several imbroglios about off-the-cuff tweets including late-night barrages, Trump’s staff reportedly took control of his Twitter account.
To be sure, about half his tweets since the election have been informational. They’ve told the American people that his transition team is doing “a fantastic job,” that retired General James Mattis is being considered for secretary of defense, that he has a good relationship with Chuck Schumer, who will lead the Democrats in the Senate in the next session.
But the other tweets — as well as Trump’s appointments — have left such Democratic politicians as Senator Harry Reid, the retiring minority leader, critiquing Trump’s social media presence.
“Rise to the dignity of the office instead of hiding behind your Twitter account,” Reid said on Twitter.
Pressed on CNN Monday about the president-elect dinging “Saturday Night Live’’ over the weekend, adviser Kellyanne Conway argued tweeting about the comedy show doesn’t take away for his ability to form a government and do the work of the American people.
“Who’s to say that he can’t do that, make a comment, spend five minutes on a tweet and making a comment, and still be president-elect?” she asked.
In an interview with “60 Minutes” after his election, Trump explained that Twitter lets him “get the word out” and fight back against inaccurate media coverage.
Will he give up his social media habit once he is sworn in as president?
“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained. I find it tremendous,” Trump said. “It’s a modern form of communication.”
The president-elect’s methods on Twitter may be leading the way for more than just politicians.
Karush, the digital strategist, said there has already been a growing trend with some corporations looking to have a less polished voice on social media.
“But with Trump’s behavior,” he said, “you may start to see even more brands trying to use a more authentic tone of communication with their audiences — because that may resonate more.”