Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump, our new FDR?

From this morning.

It occurs to me that Donald Trump's twitter account is the contemporary equivalent of FDR's radio fireside chats. A means for a president to directly connect with the American people while circumventing the media. In the 1930's according to Wikipedia:
Roosevelt understood that his administration's success depended upon a favorable dialogue with the electorate — possible only through methods of mass communication — and that the true power of the presidency was the ability to take the initiative. The use of radio for direct appeals was perhaps the most important of FDR's innovations in political communication. Roosevelt's opponents had control of most newspapers in the 1930s and press reports were under their control and involved their editorial commentary. Historian Betty Houchin Winfield says, "He and his advisers worried that newspapers' biases would affect the news columns and rightly so." Historian Douglas B. Craig says that he "offered voters a chance to receive information unadulterated by newspaper proprietors' bias" through the new medium of radio.
FDR faced a biased conservative press while DJT faces a biased liberal press - nothing new under the sun. All that has changed is the direction of the bias and the mechanism for circumventing the entrenched interests.

Just as with FDR, Trump is circumventing the entrenched media and setting his own agenda with the American people and driving his own news cycle. In some ways, it is masterful. Twitter is free, it is nearly universally accessible, and it is asynchronous (i.e. the public does not have to rearrange their schedule to watch the news or buy a paper; they can access his twitter account whenever it is convenient for them).

But why announce this two weeks in advance? Here is my guess. Given the extent and complexity of his business interests, it is almost certain that there is no real solution to the possible appearance of his potential conflicts of interest short of selling everything. In an ideal world, that might conceivably be the desired action but in this world I doubt that anyone would expect him to extinguish his life's work. The electorate elected him knowing he was a billionaire with complex business interests. All he has to do is show a good faith gesture in the direction of solving the problem. For the partisan media, whatever he does will fall short, regardless of what he proposes.

I am guessing that Trump, by making his announcement in advance, is defanging the established mainstream media. Without any plan details, the media will work themselves into a frenzy about how unworkable any announced plan will be and will do so in such a partisan and emotive way that they will discredit themselves. They can't help themselves. Its the news cycle.

In two weeks Trump will announce some anodyne plan that goes some ways towards addressing the potential conflict of interest without actually fully solving that potential conflict of interest. Any criticism that the mainstream media then makes based on the specifics of his plan at that time will be discounted by the public because the media will have already shown themselves to be simply opposed to Trump in all things, not opposed to anything specific in the plan.

Trump, our new FDR? In forty years, will historians be referring to Trump's Twitter account as we now refer to FDR's fireside chats? Stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment