Love him or loathe him, Barack Obama is widely considered by many to be the first presidential candidate in history to truly and strategically utilize social media to his political advantage. And he did it with aplomb – putting forth carefully crafted messaging targeted to key constituents, designed to motivate and build voter base. Enter: Donald Trump, who is turning the “politically correct” communications approach on its ear.
Again, a disclaimer: I am not endorsing nor slapping – just opining. But when is the last time you can recall a presidential wannabe appear to not give a “rat’s ass” what he says or who he offends? To be sure, as reporter Matt Taibbi reports in the latest issue of Rolling Stone: “Donald Trumps’ antics have forced the other candidates to get crazy or go home.” That’s right. In order to keep up with “The Donald” many of the candidates appear in a desperate race to also give sometimes outright outrageous soundbites they know will be tweeted, retweeted and debated on Twitter and other social media. Staying relevant? How about staying out of Trump’s shadow?
It’s a bit akin to the old PR myth: “Any PR is good PR.” In this case, however, several candidates seem to be subscribing to a revised version: “Any PR is better than no PR (good or bad). As such, as Trump vows to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, Mike Huckabee, reports Taibbi, says he will invoke the 14th and 15th amendments to end abortion (the 14th amendment, by the way, was originally written to protect the right of ex-slaves). South Carolina Lindsay Graham, meanwhile, creates a video evoking a combination of SNL’s classic Samurai and “Bass-o-Matic” sketches, complete with a cell-phone being ginzu-knifed before blended – crazy-perfect for YouTube.
Trump’s “devil may care” approach may well wear thin as the campaign proceeds yet for now the polls clearly show him out in front. Perhaps his words resonate with an audience tired of the political status quo; a perceived man of action in a partisan world of inaction. A candidate not beholden to special interest groups nor donors. To be sure, his politically-uncorrectness is, for some refreshing while, for others, downright offensive and scary. After all, brash can work in business but on the world stage, one also needs to be able to exhibit diplomacy and finesse. Only time will tell how far Trump’s unorthodox campaign will take him and how many will ultimately follow.