President Donald Trump has, since the day he first announced his candidacy, used different tactics from most politicians to fight his battles. Chief among these has been candidate and now President Trump's use of Twitter. Dealing with a hostile relationship with the political press, Trump has often gone around the usual forms of communication to talk directly to supporters and opponents online using social media. In fact, Trump's early-morning tweets have often set the day's news cycle since he was elected in November.
Trump's Twitter had a dark side for those on the receiving end of his frequent insults using it. Chuck Jones, an Indiana union leader who criticized Trump's Carrier deal, found himself on the receiving end of a deluge of angry and threatening phone calls after Trump tweeted an attack on him. Boeing's stock took a hit equivalent to $1.48 billion after Trump tweeted that he wanted to cancel an Air Force One order. And there have been numerous reports of Republicans in Congress afraid to break with the president, hoping not to be targeted by his trigger-happy Twitter fingers.
But there's reason to believe that Trump's bark is proving worse than his bite. Now that he's president, and the news coming from the White House can't be limited to 140 characters, the attacks from the first smartphone may turn out to be overblown. Take Wednesday's (potentially unethical) attack on Nordstrom for dropping Ivanka Trump's clothing line from its stores.
Nordstrom has stated that it dropped Ivanka's line due to declining sales, not any political considerations, though activists leading boycotts against Nordstrom and other brands associated with the Trump family have declared victory. Based on the rules we've come to expect from Trump's tweets, we'd have expected Nordstrom to be in big trouble, when the president of the United States called them out to his 24 million followers, and that trouble to be reflected in the stock price. Except that didn't happen at all:
The Nordstrom episode highlights one of the real problems the Trump administration is facing: Talk is cheap and real action is much harder. Trump can bash Nordstrom, but with Trump's low popularity, and the low likelihood that he'll actually do anything against the company (unlike Boeing), his words probably won't make a difference in people's willingness to shop at Nordstrom. Considering the brand's core consumer of young women — a demographic that has been far from enthusiastic about Trump — calling down the president's fury may be even beneficial to Nordstrom — which may have showed up in the stock rally.
Nordstrom isn't alone in facing Trump social media critique. Senators John McCain of Arizona and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut got called out by Trump Thursday morning. (The former is a member of Trump's own party while the latter is a Democrat.)
We'll soon see the test of whether this matters at all. If senators start to feel like getting attacked by the president no longer hurts them, they may be more inclined to break from him on issues that cause disagreement. Nordstrom may have given them the proof they needed.