Who really won the “debate”? Just ask Trump’s Traitors.

As I went to bed on Monday night, I had the unsettling sensation that Hillary Clinton might well have won the debate.  In this I was hardly alone, but my feeling was “unsettling” because I  knew that Clinton was appealing to people like me. So we must be ready to discount our own impressions––as well as the impressions of the liberal media. Indeed, when I woke up the next morning, the Donald offered compelling confirmation that these impressions had indeed been inaccurate:


And this…screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-37-03-pm

Pretty impressive.  And then Mark Shields of PBS fame apparently found HRC to be abrasive and off putting. A colleague of mine said the same thing.





So it must have been true. Donald Trump, reality TV star, knew instinctively what Americans wanted to hear.  And he confirmed it, remarking:

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-11-08-08-pmAnd who can disagree, given that Real Men don’t watch CNN.  Poor Hillary was left posting and boasting about one lousy poll:screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-57-25-pm

Clearly enthusiastic Trump supporters were mobilized to respond, flooding these polling sites as if they were voting for their favorite singer on American Idol. Indeed, as CBS noted, “According to data released by Twitter, Donald Trump dominated Twittersphere. Sixty-two percent of Twitter conversation went to @realDonaldTrump compared to @HillaryClinton who claimed 38 percent.” If nothing else, this confirms what we already know: Trump (but also his supporters) know how to use media–particularly social media–far more effectively than his Democratic rival.

Of course, in the more extended aftermath, as the more scientific sampling came out, our initial impression was confirmed:  Clinton had “won” the debate. But the Charlotte Observer fought back: “Presidential debate surprise: Clinton loses ground among some voters in swing state.” Good for the Charlotte Observer! Their certain to be one of the best seats on Trump press plane.  As CNN perhaps somewhat gleefully reported:

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump is angry that his aides and advisers have conceded to reporters — largely without attribution — that the Republican nominee struggled in his first presidential debate.
In a conference call with surrogates Wednesday afternoon, Trump aides made clear the Republican nominee is upset that his allies publicly acknowledged they pushed him to change his preparation and tactics before his next bout with Hillary Clinton. And he wants them to stop it immediately.
The message was “not subtle,” a source familiar with the call said.
Trump wants his supporters to make an energetic defense of his performance and refuse to concede that he didn’t nail it.

Looking for evidence that would support his contention, Trump emailed his supporters.screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-11-46-10-pmOf course, having assumed the role of an identified Trump supporter, I quickly replied that Trump won the debate.  Didn’t all the polls–particularly the polls on his website–already prove it?
  OK.  This is nothing new, really.  During the 1896 presidential campaign, all major New York City newspapers but one endorsed Republican presidential candidate William McKinley.  The sole exception was William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.  Hearst insisted that Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan would win New York State–and so the presidential election–until the polls close and the returns proved otherwise.  In fact, Bryan didn’t even manage to carry New York City–the Democrat’s Gibraltar––and lost the state by over 250,000 votes.
So Trump is right to insist that he won the debate whatever the evidence to the contrary.  Nonetheless, he may not be able to have it both ways as he also complains about the questions and his bad mike.  What does the Donald do when he falters in this circumstance? He announces that he will not be so nice the next time and bring up Bill Clinton’s sexcapades. So maybe Gennifer Flowers will finally get that ringside seat that she has been hoping for after all.

Politicking on Twitter with Gennifer Flowers

Stop Right Here:


For one moment, let’s just forget the content of the above Tweet. The tweet and so Twitter should interest us as a phenomenon in and of itself.  The social media of choice for Barack Obama was YouTube. So let me quote the first paragraph from my book Politicking and Emergent Media:

In 2008 Barack Obama utilized the new possibilities of the Internet far more effectively than did his rivals Hillary Clinton and John McCain, giving the young Senator a crucial edge in the Democratic nominating process and general election. For example: After suffering unexpected defeat in the New Hampshire primary, Obama delivered an inspirational speech on live television in the late evening: “Yes We Can.” Although this address to his disheartened supporters went largely unseen due to the late hour and the many competing campaign narratives of the day, his campaign organization immediately reposted the broadcast to the candidate’s YouTube channel, where it became an Internet phenomenon. Its impact was further augmented by Will.I.Am’s immensely popular “Yes We Can” music video, which echoed Obama’s New Hampshire oratory as an array of performers voiced what may be the most potent campaign song in US political history. This speech is often said to have propelled Obama to the nomination and ultimately the presidency, but it was the Internet that made that possible. Likewise, Obama supporters from around the world expressed their heartfelt enthusiasm for his candidacy on the Internet, usually in song. This ran the gamut from a popular video showing members of Obama for Obama––a group from Obama, Fukui, in Japan––joyously singing “O-B-A-M-A OBAMA!” to a YouTube posting by a young Swedish woman of Finnish ethnicity who was working in the United Kingdom as a nanny: alone in her small, underfurnished room in the early hours of the morning, she sang a song to celebrate his nomination. It would barely receive 100 views.

Has any one gone on YouTube to look for campaign songs this election? It is hard to imagine someone writing a campaign song to celebrate either Clinton or Trump unless it was tongue in cheek–or they got paid a lot of money.    There were a few music videos for Bernie Sanders––such as the Simon & Garfunkel song America. But even then the song wasn’t written about Sanders.  He lacked a “Yes, We Can” song.  But it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.  Internet energy was headed elsewhere–to Twitter.

Twitter is the social media form of the 2016 election, and Donald Trump is not only the master of it, he is the person who made it the media form of choice.  He has 11.7 million followers–not quite 2 million more than Hillary Clinton. But compare the ways each of the candidates use it.  Whatever you think of Trump, you are getting Trump.  It is first person Twitter.  Hillary’s page is all in the third person. Consider how they just handled two key endorsements:

Clinton was endorsed by the NYTimes: clinton-and-ny-times

Her twitter feed shows it off, but frankly I already knew that she got the Times endorsement.  Nothing new here. What did she think about it? Of course it was a certainty but she could have at least offered up a thanks.

That’s what Trump did when he got an endorsement from Ted Cruz:


Of course, I already knew that Cruz endorsed Trump. But I didn’t know how Trump was reacting to Cruz’s cave-in.  Magnanimously as it turns out.  Having been humiliated and defeated by Trump, Cruz finally pays fealty to his lord and master.  Trump could have dismissed the endorsement with distain, sending Cruz to the coal mines, but he didn’t.  He is generous in victory.  In contrast, Hillary’s twitter feed is like a news aggregator.

But let’s now go back to the first tweet:

My God, Donald Trump is taking the low road even as he goes nuclear.  Bringing Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his special guest: Isn’t that misogynistic? It probably is.  But why at this moment? First, it is a response to the announcement by Mark Cuban that he was going to be Hillary Rodman Clinton’s guest at the Monday debate.



Presumably having Cuban at the debate might unsettle or distract the Donald.  The Texas billionaire is not only a Hillary supporter but in longstanding feud with Trump.  It is interesting that Cuban (with his 5.57 million followers) announced this piece of news–not the Clinton campaign.  Perhaps it was Cuban’s idea?  In any case, it makes her look a little weak.

Trump wants to ensure a favorable debate environment for himself.  He doesn’t need a fellow billionaire in the front row mocking him. In any case, the Donald won’t allow himself to be upstaged. So jujitsu. Gennifer Flowers will get a lot more attention from the press than Cuban. Once again Trump is top dog.  He must have been waiting for a chance to play the Flowers card, and Hillary gave him the opening (it was only a question of time). Will we have both Mark Cuban and Gennifer Flowers in the front row?  Who knows.  Las Vegas has probably established the odds already.  The campaigns are doubtlessly negotiating as we speak.  And it will be interesting because this is the kind of “art of the deal” that Trump savors.  So stay tune.  It should ensure a record breaking audience for the first debate.

But haven’t we forgotten something? Well yes. Certainly this is all a lot more titillating than some boring New York Times endorsement, which is hardly a surprise and barely news.  Isn’t your salacious mind much more inclined to google Gennifer Flowers, reflect on her scandalous past with Bill Clinton and speculate on how upsetting it might be for Presidential candidate Clinton to have her in the front row. Why worry about actual issues and the candidates’ vision for America when we have this political blood sport to watch?  Once again Trump seems on top–doing to Clinton what he did to Cruz.

How does this connect with politics in the late nineteenth century?  Well when Democrat Grover Cleveland was running against Republican James Blaine, he was viciously attacked for an illicit affair and a child born out of wedlock.  Blaine’s supporters ridiculed Cleveland by chanting “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa? After Cleveland won in a squeaker,  his supporters happily responded: “Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha.” The Gennifer Flowers card is a powerful one, but it could also backfire.

 More on Flowers in my next post.

Politicking and Emergent Media: US Presidential Elections of the 1890s

Charlie Musser opens a package from UC Press and sees his actual book for the first time.

This is the site where I (Charles Musser) will be talking about media and US Presidential elections both in the present (the 21st century) and the past  (the 19th century).  Perhaps even moments in between.  I am interested in some of the similarities and some of the differences.  cover_musserI am not myself always media fluent.  I’d been trying to get this site off the ground for the last two months.  But today my book Politicking and Emergent Media: US Presidential Elections of the 1890s finally arrived in my mail box.  And it appeared just ten minutes before my first book talk. In fact I opened the package at the presentation (see above).  Fortunately, despite some initial teasing, the  right book was in the package. I eventually turned it into a reverse book signing–getting everyone who was there to sign the book so I know who witnessed this unveiling.  So let me savor this moment. Afterwards I went over to the Digital Humanities Lab and we finally got this website launched as well.  One media form reaches completion, the other takes off. A nice ending to a complicated week.