How to Be A Better Democrat (on Twitter)

The Election of November 2016 – and the 18 or so months that preceded it – was nothing short of a dumpster fire. The campaign was long. It was mean. It was polarizing. At one point, Neo-Nazis literally “hailed” Trump – in a federal building, just yards away from the White House. For many, it felt more like 1938 than 2016. And then Trump won, and all Hell broke loose across the country. And Democrats never saw it coming. Overconfident and arrogant, we let our guard down, and now Trump has the nuclear launch codes.

We now have two choices – accept or resist. Most of us are choosing the latter, but how does one effectively “resist?”

On social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, a war of opinions rages on. While thousands protest and march and attend Town Halls, millions more fight one another with tweets and posts and shares. It would be a mistake to ignore what’s happening in social media – in particular, Twitter. Consider:

  1. MILLIONS use social media. This article gives you an idea of how many people use it. That kind of reach is remarkable.
  2. Social media is where “Fake News” comes from. Fake News is created as Propaganda for Facebook and Twitter. Both sides fall victim to it. It is enormously harmful. It’s also big business. It poisons the discourse.
  3. Judging from the Twitter bios I’ve seen of late, many users think that social media involvement is the same as activism, which it most definitely is not. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless.
  4. Social Media is a place where the Right and the Left can come together in droves – and throw shit at one another with reckless abandon. Seriously, it’s nasty. But where else do people with polar opposite opinions actually interact?
  5. Oh, yeah. Our President uses it extensively. As does most of Congress. So there’s that.

It’s a legitimate medium for discourse, no question about it. As Democrats, we have an opportunity to use it to our advantage, but only if we apply some common sense. I’m concerned about the sheer volume of fanaticism I see – on the Left. I must admit, I expected as much from the ignorant masses that support the Alt-right, but I’m taken aback by the vitriol I see on the Left. It is self-defeating. It is embarrassing. And it is not the way to conduct yourself if promoting Democratic ideals is truly your cause.

My arguments here are less about policy and more about presentation. This is about representing the party of JFK, the one that established Civil Rights, led us through two world wars and steered us out of the Great Depression. To that end, my thoughts on how to be a better Democrat on Twitter.

1. Spelling matters.

Twitter is a visual medium, and the primary way thoughts are expressed is through the written word. In other words, learn to spell. If you can’t spell, use spell check. Grammar and syntax and subject-verb agreement are important, too. Don’t think so? Well, you’re wrong.

Bottom line – it is impossible to make an intelligent argument if your argument is riddled with errors. Your opponent is looking for any reason to dismiss your argument, so don’t let them because you’re too lazy to proofread. A Tweet is 140 characters. It’s not like I’m asking you to edit Anna Karenina.

2. Easy with the ALL CAPS.

In polite society, writing in ALL CAPS = yelling. Done sparingly, I suppose it is a good way to underline your point. But all things being equal, ALL CAPS writing is offensive. Nobody likes being yelled at. Furthermore, what you have to say is just not that important. And for God’s sake, don’t use ALL CAPS in your bio. You look like a lunatic. Do you honestly think anyone will take you seriously if you come off like you drink your own urine? Don’t be that guy. You’re representing a political party. Have some self-respect.

3. Stop calling people racist.

There is no data to support the belief that all Trump voters are racist. If you think they are, maybe you ought to consider your own preconceived notions, because you are wrong. Conservative voters have strong beliefs and a value system that may or may not have anything to do with race. The reality is, racism exists on a spectrum and we all exist somewhere on that line. Hateful bigots exist, but they are rare. and it’s just as ignorant to paint all Trump supporters with the same brush.

A few days ago, a self-professed “Liberal” on Twitter engaged in some binary thinking with me when he stated that all Trump voters were racists. That’s demonstrably false and I told him so. I told him that many people who voted for Tump, like my parents, just don’t know how divisive Trump actually is. If you’re not watching the 24/7 news cycle on CNN or prowling about on social media, it’s not all that clear. I get that YOU think it is, but it’s not to my mom and dad, who are in their 70s.

After which, he called my parents racist. So he got blocked. Point is, if you think that kind of behavior is okay, then you have no business calling yourself a Democrat. More to the point – that kind of nonsense is why we lost the election.

4. Don’t Spread Fake News.

I figured out two things out recently. First, The Left thinks the Right are the ones spreading fake news and the Right thinks the Left are the ones spreading fake news. Second, The Left defines “Fake News” as stories that are straight-up false, and the right defines “Fake News” as stories that are straight-up biased. We can’t even agree on a working definition of Fake News. Let that sink in for a second.

Regardless of how you define it, don’t be a douche bag. Don’t spread memes that make outrageous claims and don’t spread “news” from Far Left fish wraps like Occupy Democrats, Bipartisan Report, Daily Kos, and Think Progress. I get that these sites feed your confirmation bias, but they only serve to alienate and embolden the Right, which does not help our cause.

I’ve expanded my definition of fake news to include sites like Think Progress, which intentionally misleads its readers with click-bait stories and half-truths. Please avoid sites like this. Bottom line – if you have to use an obscure source to reinforce a point you are making – maybe your point just sucks. Food for thought.

5. Don’t Mock Trump Defectors

Some of the most alarming behavior I’ve seen on Twitter has been against Trump supporters who have expressed their regret over voting for him. These folks are pouring out of the woodwork now that the ACA hangs in the balance, and lots of people stand to lose their insurance. “I have absolutely no sympathy” one “Liberal” posted on Twitter, about a woman who was going to lose her health insurance. “I hope she dies.”

Really? This is the wrong attitude to have for a number of reasons, including the inhuman lack of empathy. That sort of radicalized far left thinking is exactly the kind of thing that emboldens the right. Why play into their hands? Are you actually trying to promote Progressive ideals, or are you just being a dick?

Remember, the enemy of my enemy ifs my friend. 2018 is right around the corner, and we need these people to vote. Alienation is a terrible strategy. You don’t have to like these people, but you can at least admire them for admitting they were wrong. That takes guts. Far more guts than, say, kicking someone when they’re down.

6. Finally, don’t get complacent.

We’re just over two months into Trump’s Presidency. “TrumpCare” has just been defeated and Congress is investigating Russian collusion with members of the Trump campaign team. Lots going on. So much that it’s easy to get tired and it’s easy to forget what’s at stake. Donald J. Trump is an unhinged, unqualified, unfit lunatic who rose to power on the backs of the ignorant. He has emboldened bigots and promoted hatred and intolerance. He may or may not be a traitor. Regardless, he is bad news for our country, and these next four years are critical. If we’re not careful, Donald Trump will win a second term, the same way he won his first – with Democrats grossly underestimating him. You’re either helping, or you’re not. It’s that simple.

As President Obama said, “Don’t boo. Vote.” I’m taking his charge a few steps further: Don’t just tweet – vote. Don’t just like – vote. Don’t just share – vote. Don’t just argue, or rant, or chant, or post, or all the other things that we do that make us feel like we’re actually doing something when we’re not. May we never endure another 2016. Whether we do or not depends on you.

 

Randy Withers, MA, NCC, LPCA, LCAS

Randy Withers, MA, NCC, LPCA, LCAS

I'm a dually-licensed in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor, specializing in Co-Occurring Disorders.
Randy Withers, MA, NCC, LPCA, LCAS

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