While the 2012 presidential election is merely around the corner, the candidates’ campaigns are becoming even more harsh and direct, specifically between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Romney’s detractors often target him for his work done at Bain Capital, pointing to companies in which he invested both time and money that failed, causing the loss of several jobs. Recently on Twitter, however, Barack Obama released information about a particular investment of Romney’s, tweeting, “After Romney’s firm drove a 105-year-old steel mill into bankruptcy in less than 10 years, they walked away with at least $12 million.” President Obama continues to tweet about the wrongdoings of Romney’s firm in the following hours, asking his followers to join him in the fight against ‘Romney Economics’. Mitt Romney had a retaliation plan in mind and within the same day, releasing a campaign video entitled ‘American Dream’ that defended Romney’s actions at Bain. The video references a steel company of Indiana by the name of Steel Dynamics that was evidently saved by Romney’s actions. Several Steel Dynamics employees are featured in the video, each revealing how much of an impact Steel Dynamics’ economic growth has had on both their finances, their families and their community. It includes what we know very well as an emotional appeal, or pathos, that evokes feelings of pride and reverence for the viewers. At one point, the voice in the ad says, “SDI almost never got started. When others shied away, Mitt Romney’s private sector leadership team stepped in.” Although Romney’s return address was a bit more subtle than Obama’s original attack on ‘Romney Economics’, the essence of politics can still be clearly noted in this event.
(Click the picture to watch the video on YouTube)
I believe that this confrontational back-and-forth debate displays the true nature of campaigning. In class, we explored the different tiers of elections, discussing the Electoral College, electoral strategy, money and elections, voter participation, and campaign commercials; but this disagreement, only one of many, between the top candidates in the 2012 presidential election has pushed me to think further about the importance and power of words while campaigning.We were able to look into the incredible amount of influence that money has in elections, however I would like to propose something that gives money ‘a run for its money’. Perhaps words, expressly harsh attacking claims against candidates, hold a similar influence. It seems as if politics are evolving into an even deeper etched divide between the two political parties as well as opposing candidates. It’s partly due to the fact that it’s election season. As we are in the midst of a very important presidential election, the more important the election, the more publicity it receives. However, the media, fellow politicians and voting citizens can see through this harmless example of politics in which Obama grills Romney for his poor economic tactics, thus encouraging Romney to retaliate, that words can be extremely powerful, and like the prominence of the election, the more direct and harsh the words, the more attention they will receive. Candidates have been employing this tactic for many years, as evident in campaign videos such as Lyndon Johnson’s well-known Daisy Girl attack ad of 1964. Despite the popularity of this tactic, is pinpointing often insignificant things about a potential candidate’s past actions truly in the spirit of elections? Is this knowledge that candidates are leaking about each other eventually going to be beneficial for the general public to know, or are they merely trying to elevate themselves by putting down others?
In my opinion, the primary focus of a President while campaigning is to tell the public of his personal policies and how they will benefit American citizens. He should discuss what he will do for his country if he is to be elected rather than investing too much time and money into attacking his opponents. After all, we are not necessarily voting on the candidate that has made the least amount of mistakes or has the least controversial past, we are voting on the candidate that in our minds will be the best at leading our country into success. In the end, the candidates are merely trying to gain as many supporters and guaranteed votes as possible in order to secure the victory, and they often go to extremes in order to do so.
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.