Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign and continuing after his victory in the 2016 national presidential election, Donald Trump has made daily use of Twitter–usually tweeting before dawn– to promote his ideas, lambaste his opponents and reach national constituencies without relying on the conventional mass media for cooperation. Indeed, the media are among the main targets of Trump’s tweets. In January, 2017, for example, in response to a CNN report intimating that the Russians had acquired material that could be used to blackmail the incoming president, Trump accused CNN of publicizing “totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives…FAKE NEWS.” In other tweets, Trump asserted his views on foreign and domestic policy issues, praised his cabinet nominees, attacked companies that moved production out of the U.S., and generally offered his own perspectives on national and international developments.
Many commentators were initially critical of Trump’s propensity to tweet and dismissed his efforts as examples of Trump’s petulance and propensity to shoot from the hip. Some accused Trump of engaging in foolish attempts to conduct government by tweet.
After a time, however, even Trump’s critics came to see the power of tweeting as a political tactic. To Trump, early-morning tweets are a way to set the agenda for the day’s news coverage. Every morning, reporters find comments from the president elect waiting for them as they sip their coffee. Some reporters and commentators are moved to respond positively to Trump; many more are inclined to criticize Trump’s comments. No journalists, however, can ignore Trump lest they be locked out of the day’s journalistic conversation. The result is that, every day, much of the day’s news is about Trump. Whether he is praised or criticized is irrelevant. Indeed, Trump has taught his supporters to reject critical comments from his enemies in the press-purveyors of “fake news”–and to believe only positive coverage of his efforts. Twitter has helped Trump become the center of national attention and the dominant figure on the American political landscape.