Home > A3, Learning > Tweeting His Way to the Top

Tweeting His Way to the Top

According to our Founding Fathers, the presidency is primarily a check on the powers of the other two branches of government and the military. The first clause of article two of the Constitution declares “the executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” They assigned the role of the president to be the head of the executive branch, not the sole leader of our country. So, if the Constitution does not give presidents as much power as they seem to have, then how have they become such central figures in American government?

In class, we have recently discussed Richard Neustadt’s idea of presidential informal power. In the White House, Neustadt argues “[The President’s] strength or weakness, then, turns on his personal capacity to influence the conduct of the men who make up government.” Essentially, modern presidents derive their power from their ability to influence others, particularly politicians, rather than directly from the Constitution. In today’s modern world of technology, the Internet has become an essential part in a president’s informal power. For example, President Obama uses social media sites as an outlet to impose his beliefs among people around the nation, specifically Twitter.

Twitter is growing in numbers everyday; since its debut in 2006, over 175 million users have joined in the tweeting, re-tweeting, following and favoriting (http://www.technolog.msnbc.msn.com/technology/technolog/just-how-many-active-twitter-users-are-there-124121). Our government class has been using Twitter along with millions of people in order to discuss and learn about political processes and recent happenings in the 2012 election. We can even view the tweets of prominent politicians, including President Obama along with a team of tweeters that help manage his account. Through his Twitter account, President Obama is able to practice his informal strength by promoting his campaign, success and ideas in a variety of tweets. To follow the President on Twitter, click the following link: http://twitter.com/#!/BARACKOBAMA.

Obama’s followers can find any information about the President and his campaign simply by viewing his tweets. Looking at the most recent tweet from the four above, Obama tweets often to let his followers know how they can get involved in his campaign, for example linking them to sign up sites for his campaign rallies. By gathering more supporters via Twitter, Obama’s capacity to influence, or his informal power, grows even larger.

In the second most recent tweet, Obama posted about the newfound success of Chrysler, a business that found its way during his time as President. When any American business improves, regardless of its importance, it indicates economic growth. Obama tweeting about the minor growth of success in America on his hand may positively impact people’s impression of President Obama. Without expressly writing that the American economy is improving on his watch, he still allows people to think that perhaps he is helping its growth with small steps.

Often times, politicians use Twitter to criticize policies and proposals of other politicians, and this can certainly get heated in the midst of a Presidential Election. Becuase Mitt Romney will most likely pull ahead as the final GOP candidate, he is Obama’s direct target in attack campaign videos, ads and tweets. Twitter is an ideal form of attack, simply because he can link out to videos or external links that support his reasoning as to why Romney is the wrong choice, and millions will see it. However, Obama must keep in mind that negative publicity will also come his way from other candidates. Attacks can be very harsh, but it’s all part of politics.

Finally, Obama is able to directly interact with American citizens and gather their opinions on new bills and policies through Twitter. He can summarize it in a brief tweet and watch the replies roll in, collecting immediate feedback in order to give Americans precisely what they want.

Many of Obama’s critics say that he is far too wrapped up in media involvement, and that it has resulted in an unfair balance of coverage between him and other Republican candidates in the 2012 election. However, why would the President not use this deemed “love affair” to his advantage? If he is able to ramp up his power through the Internet, or even the television and radio, why wouldn’t he seize the opportunity to do so? Modern times call for a change in political approach; it is an undeniable fact that the media now plays a large role in politics. If the media wants to follow President Obama around while he has them wrapped around his finger, he should continue to utilize his power over media in order to display his informal powers.

The ability to use sites like Twitter in order to hype up presidential informal powers of influence and persuasion has made a tremendous impact politics, and should certainly call for an interesting 2012 Presidential Election. President Obama will continue to use Twitter as an avenue to connect to citizens, gather support and possibly influence people to see his side of things. I personally believe that Twitter is an excellent way to share and spread ideas considering the Internet is one of, if not the primary form of communication today. We must share ideas to keep the general community informed of important news, interesting articles and controversial moments in the world, and it’s easy to share things on Twitter. After all, very powerful things can be stated in a mere 140 characters or less.

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  1. abb459
    May 1, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Natalie,
    You did a GREAT job on you reflection! One thing that I thought you did really well was give a few statistics on Twitter and then went into how President Obama uses it. I also liked the political cartoon you added because I think it demonstrates how much influence media can have on an election. The only thing I would consider adding your own opinion on Twitter. Great job! 🙂

  2. laurene12
    May 1, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Natalie great job. I loved your perspective on Obama’s use of the media. The voice and factual information was clearly stated in your post. The political cartoon was great also. The only thing that I would recomend doing is stating your belief on whether Obama’ s use of media is a good or bad thing.

  3. christinab12
    May 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Natalie,
    Your post is great and I though you did a great job of connecting topics we covered in class with the media and twitter. The only thing I would recommend is to maybe reflect about how twitter has helped you stay informed about political ideas.

  4. May 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks for your work, Natalie – there’s much here to discuss!

    I’m pleased that you’ve mentioned Professor Neustadt and informal presidential power here… and connected presidential influence to effective use of social media like Twitter – nice job! Just to clarify, though, Neustadt goes on to say that presidents influence through bargaining (not necessarily through the logic of their words/speeches). Maybe it’s helpful to make this analytical link more clear: to the extent that social media helps the president to increase his popularity, it also helps the president to “bargain” with other leaders in Washington – in this context, ‘bargaining’ means give-and-take of “you do this for me, then I’ll do this for you.” The more popular a president is, the more ways she can trade on her popularity to get what she wants.

    Another thought – is Twitter perhaps a way for anyone (including political leaders) to go around the media and share their message directly with the people? I’d suggest that 1) yes this President has used Twitter more effectively than any previous political leader; and 2) he’s a ‘media darling’… I’d be curious to hear more about how you see these two facts as connected: are you suggesting cause-and-effect?

    And lastly, this may be sematics/word choice, but… no political leader can “impose” (2nd paragraph) his beliefs on anyone in a democracy, right?? (maybe “share” or “explain” or “publicize” instead?)

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