Tag: Donald Trump

It Takes A Woman: Connecting and Empowering Voters Through Social Media

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to run against Joe Crowley in the democratic primary, she saw an opening: despite being a leading democrat in Washington, Crowley was too out of touch, too comfortable, and too removed from his constituency. She ran her campaign straight at Crowley’s weak spots, fostering a direct, emotional connection to the people of her district. She was out knocking on doors, handing out flyers, meeting the people who would be casting a ballot. And at the same time, she was building her skill-set of direct engagement through a different avenue: social media.

Since she defeated Crowley and coasted to a general election victory in 2018, AOC has demonstrated the enormous political power inherent in social media. Rather than tailor her messaging through carefully focus-grouped campaign ads, AOC’s social media posts can be funny, angry, playful, or indignant. In short, they are oddly human. They sound like the impassioned thoughts and opinions of a young progressive with witty comebacks and a comfort with internet vernacular.

She is also native to the idea of reinforcing her own “brand”. This past week, AOC went back to work as a bartender in Jackson Heights, Queens in order to support the #raisethewage campaign to raise the national minimum wage to $15. The videos of her bartending went viral, giving a huge boost to the campaign. In the videos, she speaks as she prepares drinks for patrons: “The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour. That is unacceptable. Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job. It’s indentured servitude. All labor has dignity and the way that we give labor dignity is by paying people the respect and the value that they are worth at minimum.” Far from hiding from her past as a service worker, AOC uses it as her bona fides in speaking for the poor and middle class. Working as a bartender demonstrates her intelligence in using her own platform and story to bolster a national issue that could benefit millions of Americans.

AOC’s uncanny candidness has cemented her status as a disruptive force to be reckoned with in the democratic party. Unlike many of her colleagues who must fight to have their message heard, she can easily command attention and demand action from her massive social media following. In her short time in office, she has already championed the Green New Deal, which failed to pass the Senate, yet has more name recognition than any progressive legislation (if not legislation writ large) in recent memory. Conservatives discuss the Green New Deal breathlessly, demonizing its regulation of the free market. Progressives applaud its steps towards combatting climate change and creating jobs. Whether you love her or hate her, AOC has forced a landmark bill into the conversation as a first-term congresswoman. That is a monumental paradigm shift.

It is important to note that AOC has carved out in this niche in the shadow of another social media renegade: President Donald Trump. President Trump’s rise to power is inconceivable without his runaway twitter antagonism. He weaponized the access that twitter gave him to create a constant swirl of attention around himself and his candidacy for president—insulting and demeaning anyone that criticized him, from his primary opponents to news anchors to late night comedians. He effectively commands attention by proving just how low he will go in order to stay in the news cycle. And, to our great national dismay, the media has proved more than willing to follow his lead. Just like AOC, whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump has completely shifted the paradigm of modern politics.

The phenomenon of politics via social media is not going away anytime soon. Insofar as we can prepare for a future in which getting elected to office means commanding a massive social media following, we can look to AOC and President Trump as concrete examples for the power and danger in this new type of power. For each, social media provides a means of side-stepping the powers-that-be to speak directly to an audience. Donald Trump did not need to wait for a debate to call Jeb Bush “low energy”; AOC does not need to filibuster on the floor of Congress to advocate for a national minimum wage. The force of their personalities, channeled through their social media accounts, allows them to set the agenda for the day.

It seems clear that President Trump will not use this power responsibly. AOC, however, is cognizant of its power and the risks of overuse. “I actually think that social media poses a public health risk to everybody,” Ocasio-Cortez said. She added, ” I think it has effects on everybody: increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, escapism.” How she proceeds to use her platform will be interesting to say the least, and will likely set a precedent for how politicians of the future wield the power of their social media to promote themselves and their ideas.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

It Takes A Woman: Kirstjen Nielsen, Claire Grady, and the President’s Border War

This past week, frustrated with Mexico’s inaction on illegal immigration into the United States, the President threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border. This would’ve been an unprecedented—and extraordinarily costly—escalation in the President’s fight to curb the flow of immigrants entering the country. The President relented, however, thanks to pushback from within his administration led by Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, after Nielsen and Pompeo stressed that such an extreme measure would do more harm than good.

That pushback would prove to be the end of Nielsen’s turbulent tenure in the Administration. After Nielsen was excoriated at a cabinet meeting last week, she drew up a “list of things that needed to change,” in preparation for a meeting with the President, according to reporting by the New York Times. When she went to said meeting, however, the President ignored the list and insisted that she resign. After their meeting, Nielsen submitted her letter of resignation, adding her name to the lengthy list of administration officials who either resigned, were forced to resign, or were fired.

Nielsen is perhaps most notable for enduring intense public scrutiny while steadily checking the President’s more extreme policy agenda items from within the administration. A lifelong bureaucrat, Nielsen was the rare member of the administration equipped with both pedigree and relevant experience. Nielsen was educated the Georgetown school of Foreign Service and the University of Virginia School of Law, then worked as a special assistant to the security council in George W. Bush’s administration. Before being appointed Secretary of the DHS, she worked for John Kelly, first in his role as Secretary of DHS and subsequently as Chief of Staff in the current administration.

Those qualifications also made Nielsen the target of the President’s suspicion. In an administration where loyalty is prized above insight, she was seen as a Washington insider who only knew how to play by the rules. And for good reason: repeatedly throughout her tenure, Nielsen had to be the voice of reason in order to explain why something that the President wanted to do—stop offering asylum, for instance—was illegal and therefore impossible. Nielsen also hesitated to toe the party line on issues like family separation, and only complied when the President pressured her to do so. While she remained a thoughtful and practiced bureaucrat, she did whatever possible to assuage the President’s concerns that she was undermining his agenda, even adopting his language of a “crisis” at the border.

Needless to say, Nielsen’s efforts to comport herself as a border ideologue did not sufficiently convince her critics in the administration. Nor did they allow her to appoint her own successor. As the undersecretary for management and acting deputy, Claire Grady was next in the department’s line of succession, as outlined in federal law. Like Nielsen, Grady was eminently qualified for her position, having nearly three decades of experience at DHS and the Defense Department. But Grady was also forced to submit her letter of resignation this week, after the President announced that he would instead be appointing a hardliner, Kevin McAleenan, to become the acting Secretary of the DHS.

Though it would be difficult to say that Secretary Nielsen’s time in office was an unmitigated success, it is clear that her breadth of experience and her humanitarian instincts played a role in checking many of the administration’s more extreme impulses. Some have speculated that the specter of family separation will follow Nielsen long after she leaves office. I hope that this is not the case, as it seems fairly obvious to me that Nielsen was doing whatever was necessary to remain at her post and prevent a catastrophe. Further, we need more, not less, women like Nielsen to step up and serve in the current administration. If we place the blame for family separation squarely on her shoulders, we only pave the way for the President to fill his ranks with those who will never challenge him.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

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