Back in the day, we would caution digital organizers that there were no undecided voters on Twitter.
However, in the age of Trump, this is no longer the case.
As then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained, “… Social media … gives [Trump] the opportunity to speak straight to the American people, which has proved to be a very, very effective tool.”
Fortunately, that cuts both ways. Social media is also a very, very effective tool for the Resistance. More than a vehicle for “hashtag activism,” Twitter provides an efficient channel for information-sharing and networking efforts that enhance real-life activism.
Twitter naturally lends itself to advocacy, and an entire subculture has emerged around a political community that’s using Twitter for organizing, messaging, networking, collaborating, and recruiting. Political Twitter has become a hub for uniting people of varied affiliations in their common goal of stopping Trump.
Political twitter encourages new and otherwise marginalized voices to speak up and gives them the tools they need to do so. This is a frightening time for our country. People are angry, frustrated, apprehensive, no longer willing to tolerate the intolerable. Our goal is to take that anger and channel it into productive efforts.
The Resistance movement is post-partisan and multicultural, and Twitter is the great equalizer. Anyone can participate — male, female, young, or experienced. There are no barriers to posting and interacting with others.
Your background doesn’t matter as long as you’re committed to the movement, and even new or smaller accounts can interact with Twitter titans such as Imani Gandy, Peter Daou, Oliver Willis, Caroline O, Eric Garland, Propane Jane, and even Joy Reid. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, as long as you have something productive to say.
In addition to these boldface names, Political Twitter offers a wealth of resources and expertise from other brilliant and accomplished political veterans. It is a welcoming community that supports and encourages new voices.
Ideal for networking, Twitter is a non-invasive way to reach someone of any stature, including those who might be unavailable in real life. Political Twitter facilitates connections among operatives, advocates in various fields, elected officials, and other interested parties.
Established activists are generally more than willing to share information and answer questions. Even the biggest accounts often respond to @’s or DM’s when they see them. This blending of skills, talent, and interests naturally lends itself to productive and rewarding collaboration. In fact, that’s how this article came to be.
“For college students and young professionals, Twitter really allows you to see a more personal side of people at the top ranks of the political business sector. These are folks at firms, on campaigns, on the Hill and elsewhere who have more flexibility to speak their mind than a public office holder does. And for a young person looking to get into this line of work, it’s a new avenue to engage with political veterans, make new connections, and build relationships.”
— Coby Eiss, experienced intern and student at American University [via email to the authors]
Political twitter drives the national conversation with a healthy and spirited exchange of ideas. Debate provides the opportunity to explore interesting ideas, battle test arguments, and refine talking points for more effective messaging. It’s not only what people talk about but HOW they talk about it — framing, language, their rationale.
Novices can expand their knowledge base and learn how to discuss the issues, while experts can strengthen their discourse by considering a fresh point of view.
“Twitter serves as both a consolidated source for real-time news updates and a quick, informal survey of the opinions of thinkers throughout the political world. I find it particularly useful in helping me to curate my own counter-ideas, as well as nuanced opinions on policy, for some of my pieces and my own thinking.”
— Stephanie Cassela, campaign operative, freelance writer, millennial [via email to the authors]
Political Twitter isn’t a silo. The politics of reciprocity on Twitter come naturally to political types, who share and retweet enthusiastically. Our timelines are teeming with new people, interesting ideas, and valuable news sources. We learn the arguments from the opposing side, as well as how to counter them.
Most prominent tweeters make certain to amplify smaller accounts to help them build an audience. When you engage with the other side, the community stands ready to back you up with talking points, memes, screenshots, or links to articles reinforcing your position or refuting your opponent’s. And when you encounter the inevitable trolls, we can help by coming to your defense. We also share block lists so you can avoid trolls in the future.
Abraham Lincoln said “Public sentiment is everything,” and there is something to be said for Trump’s approach of “speaking straight to the people.”
Twitter allows your organization to bypass traditional media who would filter your material — or ignore it completely — and take your message directly to your audience. You can also promote and share your personal and freelance projects, and publicize upcoming events, appearances, and conferences to a receptive community.
Many campaigns use Political Twitter for recruiting and crowd-building. Education and awareness are critically important to the success of any advocacy effort. Interested parties can learn more about the movement, and hopefully find a role for themselves.
Twitter offers instant gratification and immediate feedback. Real-time critiques serve to strengthen your arguments and allow you to course correct when necessary.
It’s exhilarating to watch your tweet rack up likes and retweets, real-time validation from your peers and people you admire to boost your motivation. Camaraderie with kindred spirits is a comfort during these difficult times. Political Twitter also provides much needed comedic relief, incorporating elements of “Weird Twitter” (jokes and ironic tweets) and proffering a steady stream of creative GIFs and memes.
“As a comedian, it presents a challenge to come up with a unique perspective in situations that are often pretty ridiculous already. And if you can’t be unique, at least be first. As a person who considers themselves rational and/or logical, it is monumentally reassuring to get the affirmation of the retweet/likes, if just to convince you of your own sanity.”
— Pete Wright, activist, comedian [via email to the authors]
Political Twitter is the engine that powers the Resistance, an essential resource for coordinating our messaging and function. Engaging with like-minded activists fortifies us in our mission to stand up to Trump. We are a true democracy in which all voices are considered equally, and we welcome anyone who wants to get involved and join the national conversation. Our next installment features 100 top political tweeters to get you started.
Sally Albright and Mia Brett were inspired to write this piece while collaborating on an advocacy effort that came together on Political Twitter. Danielle Cahn also contributed to this article.
This is a commentary piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.