Social Media Comes Unto Its Own in Politics
To this day I believe that my blogging projects were the reason that Ray Caballero was not reelected. Blogs were a new thing and many people, including Bob Moore at the El Paso Times, underestimated how online discourse could have an impact on politics. Do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting that my writings alone were the impetus for the rejection of Caballero, but rather it was the platform I offered that allowed many people to help spread the word about Caballero’s misguided public policy agenda. I offered an option around the El Paso Times’ gatekeeping that kept many politicos in office and allowed corruption to run rampant in El Paso.
There are many who still do not understand the vehicle that social media offers for elections. However, the ongoing demise of the print news media and the evolution of social media proves my point. I also believe that Donald Trump was elected because social media allowed him to bypass the traditional news media. The national polls showing that Trump was going to lose proves my point as well. Polls sampled your traditional voters, those voting based on the narrative of the traditional media.
That is where the polling got it all wrong – they were sampling the wrong voters.
Donald Trump, among other things, will go down as the Twitter president, the president that made social media the dominant news vehicle for politics. Not only is Donald Trump a prolific Twitter poster but his Twitter posts are now considered official statements by POTUS.
Obviously, this opens a can of worms when it comes to public documents. For example, can Donald Trump block certain users from his Twitter feed. This will likely be tested soon as the Knight Foundation has sent a letter to Trump and other threatening to sue under the First Amendment rights on behalf of a user that Trump blocked from his personal Twitter feed. At least one Twitter handle (@AynRandPaulRyan) has been blocked by Trump. Whether Trump’s personal Twitter account constitutes a public record was put to rest by Trump’s spokesperson, Sean Spicer, when Spicer acknowledged during Tuesday’s White House press briefing that Trump’s tweets as “official statements” from POTUS.
Thus, not only is the question of blocking users from his Twitter account going to be a legal issue but so is the question of whether Donald Trump has the right to delete his tweets. In El Paso, we saw this play out when the City of El Paso’s Police Department unilaterally decided to block me and other bloggers from their Twitter feed last year. They relented when they realized that Twitter is like any other news outlet. And this is just the beginning.
There is no question that Donald Trump’s travel ban has been stymied by the courts because of tweets he posted earlier.
This leads us back to social media and the role it plays in politics. It is the future of politics. The traditional news media is dying. With it is the politics of yesteryear. The United States will soon be holding midterm elections. México will be holding national elections next year. And, El Paso, along with other municipalities, will be going to the polls to elect officials.
México and the United States will see social media as the primary vehicle for engaging the electorate. As for El Paso, Veronica Escobar and cohorts learned from my social media experiments and have created a social media engine for their cause. However, after the elections that put Veronica Escobar at the helm of the county, they have not had to unleash the full potential of their social media vehicle.
Although you saw a little of its potential in Jim Tolbert’s election and now his likely loss, the fact remains that there have been no credible challengers to the Escobar dynasty.
Before some of you start to groan that Facebook and Twitter will not get you elected, understand that, that is not what I’m implying. Rather the power of social media lies in the development of an army of evangelists that spreads your message to those that actually vote. It is a long process to develop the army but it is they that will carry the politician’s message. In a later post, I’ll explain how challengers can build their own social media vehicles for their elections.
For now, understand that politics has evolved away from traditional news media towards social media in all its incarnations.