@realdonaldtrump is on fire. Within the last 72 hours, President-elect Trump has been on Twitter casting aspersions about voter fraud (for an election he won!), claiming he would end America's "deal with Cuba" (what deal?), and asserting that flag-burners should be stripped of their citizenship (what is this I don’t even). All of these statements are infuriating, vile, and most importantly, incendiary. They are also distractions. As Trump’s cabinet is starting to take its final shape, his critics need to avoid getting distracted by Trump's tweets — which are designed to do just that — and need to start getting worked up about his administration, and the potential damage it may do to our country.
Make no mistake, Trump’s tweets are horrifying. Even taken alone, the flag-burning tweet is a metastasizing horror of political policy the implications of which grow hyperbolically the more you look at it. For any other politician, I would advocate a thorough and public discussion enumerating the things it gets wrong — why protection of speech is important, why the government doesn’t have the power to revoke citizenship, and why jailing those who don’t agree with you is un-American. But for Trump, it’s important to call these tweets what they are: a sideshow, a distraction, a bright shiny object to make us look away from the real, tangible things he’s trying to do.
Those real, tangible things took a little more shape today with the announcement that Trump will nominate Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services, which is as good as Trump declaring war on Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. I believe we should all be worried about the ethical and legal fallout of a ban on flag-burning, but there are millions of people who in very real ways rely on these services for essential care.
Similarly, while Trump’s baseless claim that there was massive voter fraud in the election is enraging, it shouldn’t be nearly as terrifying as his nomination of Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department. There are a number of ways in which Sessions as Attorney General could really screw with our country, but just as a sample: the Department of Justice is responsible for overseeing voting rights. Under Sessions, the Department of Justice might very likely turn its focus away from increasing access to the franchise to making it harder through the enactment of a Federal Voter ID law.
The best thing you can do when you see an inflammatory tweet is not react to what Trump is saying, but to see what else is going on in the news. If you need to post about it on social media, make sure it’s not “HOW COULD HE SAY THIS?!” but “Can you believe Trump said this, trying to distract us from XYZ?” As Jack Shaffer wrote in a Politico column called “The New Rules For Covering Donald Trump,” “by decoding his misdirections we can make it harder for his administration to impose its bull on the majority that didn’t vote for him.”
Trump may represent a dumbing down of politics, but surviving his presidency will require all of us to become smarter, savvier social media consumers. To quote Robert F. Kennedy: “Don’t get mad. Get even.”