There are many things that have changed over the last eight years in the world of Presidential election politics. The Islamic State is on the rise now versus al Qaeda being on the decline before. Economic sentiment is higher than it’s been in eight years. Some of the liberals’ agenda was achieved and is now less pressing such as gay marriage and calling troops home from the Middle East.
These things have an effect on the political sphere, but not so much that the GOP world should be turned upside down the way it is. There are two reasons for this. The first is obvious: Donald Trump. The second is less apparent but related: social media.
Yes, social media existed in 2008 and 2012, but today it has become a portion of our expression as Americans in a way that was not present before. Today, people aren’t just posting about what they eat and where they’ve been. Today, a large percentage of adults in America use social media as an extension of who they are. This is important. Social media actually means something now, for better or for worse.
This is aiding the Trump enigma in ways that must be understood if it’s to be fixed (and yes, it really does need to be fixed). Keep in mind that I’m a fan of Trump the man, Trump the ideologue, Trump the influencer, and even Trump the political force. I have even toyed with being a fan of Trump the GOP nominee. Now, I realize that it’s not only impractical but potentially dangerous to the Republican party and the country in general.
I’m not alone. Many people who admired Trump’s forthright, no-holds-barred attitude latched onto him like he was the answer to our prayers. We looked at his history of becoming a billionaire real estate mogul and television superstar and thought that maybe he can turn some of that winning mojo into American exceptionalism. Many of us believed. Many of us posted our beliefs to social media. Now, many of us are stuck.
That’s the effect that social media is having. Even if supporters are having their doubts, there’s a problem with coming out and either denouncing Trump’s actions or rhetoric or supporting a superior candidate. We know what would happen if we did. We’ve been supporters for weeks, months, even defending him to our peers on Facebook and Twitter. What will they say if we switch? Will I look like a fool for changing my mind once I realized he would be bad for the country? Will I lose credibility? Will I be shamed on social media?
The unfortunate answer to these questions is, “yes.” Once it’s on social media and we’ve had public displays of support, it’s challenging to eat crow and admit that we were wrong. Many people will simply double down and hope for the best. Others will pretend to continue to support him while actually hoping (and voting) for someone else.
Political social media is something that I’ve worked professionally for years, but today the power is more pronounced than ever before. It’s not longer about exposure. Now, it’s about momentum and buzz. It’s about rallying the virtual grassroots effort and Trump is willing that game in the GOP nomination process. The virtual grassroots is less powerful per individual than a real ground game, but it’s still an extremely important part of the election cycle.
I sympathize with those who are starting to see the light about Trump as I have because it’s hard to suffer the public social media shaming. The more supportive and vocal you’ve been, the harder it is to change. However, you can change. You must change for the sake of the country. Here are some ways to stop supporting Trump while minimizing the social media shaming that will ensue:
- Stop Posting About Him and Post Against the Democrats: If you’re not known in your circles as a political person, then stopping posting about Trump will be enough. If you need a replacement but you’re not ready to endorse another candidate, then start attacking Trump’s Democratic opponents. Your friends won’t even notice that you’re talking less about why Trump should win and more about why Hillary Clinton will lose. To them, it will be a seamless transition.
- Declare Boredom with Politics: We’re still over 11 months away from the general election. Declare that you’ve said your peace about politics for now and you’re sick of all of the bickering. You’re going to take it easy for a while to talk about more important things like life, sports, food, whatever.
- Support Ted Cruz: There’s only really one candidate who warrants an evolution from Trump. With Ted Cruz, you get the same ideology without the bombast, the same potential without the risk. Your friends won’t think that you’ve softened up by switching from Trump to Cruz. Your evolution will be a natural progression to a candidate more capable of actions that match the rhetoric.
- Point to His Liberal Tendencies as Justification to Switch: You love what he says about immigration. You admire what he says about national security. You believe he has the best financial savvy to help the economy. But… eminent domain. But… progressive tax plan. But… he’ll be nearly 80-years-old in his second term. Pick your favorite “but” reason for leaving him and start looking at the other candidates.
- Admit that Trump’s Not What You Thought He Was: There’s something admirable about admitting that you’re wrong and your friends will appreciate it. Even if they give you a little crap over it, don’t sweat it. You have many excuses to support him and many reasons to change your mind. Pick the most relevant straw that broke the camel’s back and take a couple of days of insults.
The permanence of social media makes it challenging to walk back support for a candidate, especially someone as polarizing as Trump. As much as you hate the prospects, it’s better than staying with him all the way through to the ridicule that will happen when his ship finally sinks in epic fashion.