Since Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 US Presidential Election, the United States has fallen victim to one of the worst eras of partisan politics ever witnessed.
With that said, it is crazy to think that someone as divisive as Trump shares a key characteristic with two of America’s most cherished Presidents.
Never has a Republican President successively provoked such fiery hatred from the Left. It is no surprise that many Democrats have already turned their immediate attention to the Democratic presidential hopefuls who have already begun to take centre stage in the media ahead of the 2020 campaign.
As many Americans are hopeful that this century’s answer to Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy might be right around the corner, this article takes a look at an important commonality share betwen Trump and two of America’s most cherished Presidents that help define their Presidencies.
The fact is, each of these three Presidents pioneered ground-breaking forms of technology to communicate with the American Public. Roosevelt was the first to utilise the power of Radio, Kennedy was the first to utilise the power of Television, and Trump was the first to utilise the power of Social Media.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) – Radio
Many academics and historians would consider Roosevelt to be one of the greatest presidents in US history. He guided the US through the Great Depression of the 1930s and much of the Second World War. During this time he managed to serve four consecutive terms – the only US president to ever do so.
Roosevelt is best known for his pioneering use of radio during the 1930s through his famous broadcasts known as his ‘Fireside Chats’. FDR used the revolutionary technology to intimately communicate with the public from the comfort of their home. Over 90% of Americans household owned radios during the 1930s and Roosevelt took the opportunity to explain his policy plans to the American public through his informal radio addresses.
Roosevelt delivered 31 separate fireside chats between 1933 and 1944, he informing the public about key topics such as the New Deal and became the first President to utilise technology to directly communicate with audiences on a national scale.
John F. Kennedy (JFK) – Television
In 1960, John F. Kennedy became the youngest ever person to be elected president, beating Richard Nixon in one of the tightest elections in US history. However, many historians argue that the most decisive aspect of JFK’s campaign came from his overwhelming victory in the first ever-televised presidential debate.
The debate gave Kennedy invaluable national exposure with an estimated 70 million Americans (2/3 of the electorate) tuning in to watch on September 26th, 1960. Kennedy was the first presidential candidate to utilise the power of television. Nixon on the other hand underestimated the importance of the appearance, while Kennedy took time out of his campaign to rest, rehearse and prepare for the debate.
Interestingly, most Americans that listened to the debate on the radio felt that Nixon edged the discussion, while those that watched the debate live felt that Kennedy won. Statistics released following the election found that four million floating voters made their decision based on the televised debate, three million of which voted in favour of Kennedy. Although Nixon regained his composure in the three subsequent debates, it was the first debate that shaped voters minds and gave Kennedy the edge.
Donald J. Trump – Social Media
“When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing and I take care of it. The other way, I would never get the word out” – Donald Trump
President Trump has been quite vocal in his praise of the role that social media (Twitter, in particular) played in his shock victory over Hilary Clinton in 2016. Although many leaders in his own Republican party have criticised his use of social media, Trump considers it a “tremendous platform” that allows him to bypass what he considers unfair or unwarranted media coverage and can engage directly with his voters.
Twitter was not a new technology in 2016, but never had it been used in the way that Donald Trump did for his election campaign. Boasting a large following due to his celebrity status, Trump used his Twitter account to launch his now trademark late night attacks on news outlets, political opponents and anyone who criticised his policies.
Speaking with Fox Business Network channel, President Trump said: “Tweeting is like a typewriter – when I put it out, you put it immediately on your show.”
Trump’s use of Twitter has undoubtedly changed how political candidates use social media to engage with voters, however many worry that the US President has overstepped the line on a number of occasions with comments like this.
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017