How to be True to Yourself and still Unite your People – via Twitter
Danny Quah weighs in with some advice for the newly elected President’s use of social media.
Thomas Friedman pointed out how the substance of Trump’s tweeting reveals the nature of someone “impulsive, petty, juvenile, immature, disrespectful of the office of the US Presidency, easily distracted by shiny objects, and lacking basic decency”. To this list, I might also add “thin-skinned, reactive, thoughtless, desperately in need of approval, selfish, and vulgar [in the sense of ignorant, indecent, obscene, crude, coarse, unrefined]”.
But, hey, I know people who work full-blast on this being their charm. More power to them.
Trump, however, is the elected leader of the world’s most vibrant democracy. Why not be less of a jerk?
Well, for one, Trump supporters – including many in Asia – love his authenticity. But there’s authentic, and there’s authentic. Tourists who let their children defecate in Hong Kong city streets might do so unthinkingly because in the parts of Gansu province from which they come, toilets are unusual. Those people are authentic. But you wouldn’t give them a thumbs up and go, Hey, rock on.
Trump accesses nuclear codes and he’s polarizing the citizens of the world’s most advanced nation? Trump is Commander-in-Chief and he’s raising the political temperature in the world’s most powerful nation? That’s not authentic; that’s sick and dangerous.
Some are suggesting a President shouldn’t tweet. That puts the blame unhelpfully on technology and absolves the real culprit. No, let the new President keep tweeting. But Friedman hypothesises some changes. So for instance instead of
“Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “grovelling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!”
Trump could have, with no damage to his authenticity, instead tweeted:
“Meryl Streep, greatest actress ever, ever, ever. Stuff happens in campaigns, Meryl. Even I have regrets. But watch, I’ll make you proud of my presidency!!!!”
Instead of attacking civil rights pioneer and hero Rep John Lewis for boycotting Trump’s inauguration with
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”
“John Lewis, a great American, let’s walk together through your district and develop a plan to improve people’s lives there. Obama was all talk. I’m all action. Call me Friday after 1 p.m. 202-456-1414. I’ll show you how legit I am.”
Everyone can play this game. For instance, internationally, instead of
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
“China! You like real estate. You like big buildings. I like real estate. I like big buildings. I think BIG and I like BIG!!!! (I don’t have a problem with size, let me tell you!) Call me!”
“China! Many people are saying you’re BAD for the environment. VERY BAD. Sad! Wait right there; I’ll send my most winningest people. (We take Visa, American Express, MasterCard.) We can fix this. 24 hours Tops! America WINS!!!”
Don’t take away the President’s Twitter. Let the President connect. Allow his true leadership qualities to emerge.
From 2006-2009 Danny Quah was Head of Department for Economics at LSE. Quah holds degrees from Princeton and Harvard, and was Assistant Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the LSE. This post first appeared on Danny's blog.