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Emulate Trump at your peril

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

If you’re running for office anytime soon, or if you currently hold office or are a “public figure,” please try to keep one thing in mind: So far, the only person to prove he can thrive by talking like President Donald Trump is . . . President Donald Trump.

Trump, and only Trump, can insult a war hero because the man was captured by the enemy, joke about grabbing women by the unmentionables, accuse an opponent’s father of participating in a plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy and still be elected to the highest office in the land.

Heck, Trump may have even been right when he joked during the campaign: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

But don’t even think of trying this at home. The president’s election was not a permission slip allowing everybody to now say the most outrageous things that come to mind. Trump changed the rules last year for himself, not anybody else—or, at least, not yet.

Say something stupid and the media—both news and social—will whack you but good, and it won’t turn out nearly as well as it did for candidate Trump. Indeed, if anything, the climate right now seems more antithetical than ever to saying silly things in public.

Earlier this month, an unopposed candidate for an Arlington Heights village board spot named Joe Favia had to drop out of his race after posting something truly stupid about women on Facebook. After the national women’s marches in January, he posted a meme which read “In one day, Trump got more fat women out walking than Michelle Obama did in 8 years.”

Again, he was an unopposed candidate. You don’t usually get a more sure thing in politics than an unopposed campaign. Not for that dude. He gone.

Danville Township Assessor Rick Rohrer, a Democrat, posted the very same meme to his Facebook page, and the chairwoman and treasurer of the Vermillion County Democratic Party were so furious that they both resigned in disgust.

Just last week, the sports anchor for the most-watched television station in Chicagoland, Mark Giangreco, was slapped with a weeks-long suspension for tweeting something stupid about the president and his supporters: “America exposed as a country full of simpletons who allowed this cartoon lunatic to be ‘elected.’ “

Also, have you seen Gov. Bruce Rauner lately? The formerly elbow-throwing, defiant Republican frat jock is now talking like the dearly departed host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

I seriously doubt that Rauner just naturally morphed from a tough guy, who has called just about everybody from the judges to the two state legislative leaders to most of the General Assembly “corrupt,” into a soft-spoken yogi who gently speaks of compromise, peace and harmony.

Rauner’s campaign team has the cash to poll-test and focus-group just about everything, and the governor is infamous for relentlessly staying on script. He and his people obviously know things have changed.

So, when probable Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker woke up early one morning last week and, according to an aide, decided to mock the far right’s incendiary rhetoric by tweeting, “As a protest against Trump’s rescinding protections for trans kids, everyone should use the other gender’s bathroom today! #protecttranskids,” he should’ve first taken a deep breath, had another cup of coffee, maybe called a friend or two and then realized he was about to make himself look like just another billionaire who can’t control himself on Twitter. Please leave the jokes to the professionals (who, by the way, are regularly put through the public meat grinder for their misfired attempts at humor).

I’m not arguing here for an utterly bland, completely “politically correct” public discourse. I’m just arguing for a little common sense and a bit of self-awareness. Just because calling some women fat worked for Trump doesn’t mean it’s gonna work for low-level candidates and elected officials. Insulting millions of Americans and questioning the nation’s electoral system also worked for Trump, but it is a no-go for a TV talking head.

And appearing to urge men to enter women’s restrooms as some sort of protest shows exactly zero common sense, no matter what the climate may be right now and no matter how well-intentioned the act may have been.

If you can’t do that, then delete your account.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - A guy - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:13 am:

    So True. I really can’t remember a time where you need to be so careful about what you say; trying to be humorous or serious. Lots of frayed nerves out there. Being boring or cheesy never had more cachet than right now.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:26 am:

    To the Post,

    Rich gives great insight where people are missing the obvious that they just aren’t Trump, and rules apply to them. I’m always amazed at two things when reading Pols twitters…

    A lack of self-awareness.

    Thinking that words don’t matter, especially their order too.

    Here are my Twitter rules for Pols or Campaigns.

    1) Get off Twitter.

    2) Never tweet in real time. No one cares about your real time assessment about… anything. Get to a million followers, then the answer is maybe people care.

    3) Never retweet without any explanation. You read these retweets without context and they’re head scratchers. Are they agreeing, mocking, disagreeing? Why is this so important?

    4) Don’t tweet during “work”. On the Chamber floors, city council, county board, during any meeting you are allegedly attending, pay attention. Show professionalism.

    5) Don’t respond to an “@”, ever. Good, bad, whatever, do NOT respond to anyone on Twitter, ever. Tweet something, then let it be.

    6) Use Twitter only for information. Meetings/events, thank yous, congratulations, sympathy, and go those well after and check out all the information for accuracy. Nothing is worse than congratulating John Smith when Jim Smits gets auto-corrected.

    7) Have at least 2 people approve your pictures. Crowd sizes and explanations are the biggest culprits. No need to describe a picture of a crowd that a picture wholly refutes. In fact, no crowd pictures unless 4 people approve and a day after the event.

    8) You are NOT funny. Snark on Twitter cuts in ways many cant see or read. If you want to be edgy, go to an open mic and embarrass yourself publicly. Tweeting silliness isn’t a grew way to seem thoughtful ever.

    9) Twitter is FOREVER. “I’m frustrated 2 but taking steps to reform Illinois is more important than a short term budget stalemate”. That’s not even remotely awful, but it’s forever. Your tweets follow you. Why encourage your Twitter mistakes that haunt you for always? Think. Tweets stay.

    10) Get off of Twitter. Dear Pols, more careers and campaigns have been ended or ruined by Twitter than advanced. Read this. learn this. Understand this.

    Twitter. The best worst idea for Politics.


  3. - tobor - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:32 am:

    Joking?


  4. - FormerParatrooper - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:34 am:

    OWs post needs to printed, framed and placed at the desks of all politicians and should be page 1 of handouts they are given when assuming office.

    And the rest of use need to apply the simple concepts of common sense and civilty in our social media postings.


  5. - jim - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:37 am:

    “decided to mock the far right’s incendiary rhetoric by tweeting”

    surely you don’t believe that lame explanation for Pritzker’s stupid tweet.


  6. - Curl of the Burl - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:42 am:

    Willy - you are spot on. Twitter and Facebook cross-posts from Twitter are great for guys like Adam Shefter or Ken Rosenthal or Jon Heyman or the quirky athlete who has a good wit and sense about himself. Twitter is not an ideal avenue for political discourse and, in fact, it might make things worse given that 140 characters can change the tone and cause confusion with the press of “send” or “post”.


  7. - SAP - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:44 am:

    My social media rule is to watch Goodfellas and treat all social media like Paulie Cicero treated the telephone: Don’t use it for anything that you don’t want the whole world to know about.


  8. - oneholeoff - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:58 am:

    A shout out to Rich for using Twitter for good this weekend with a link to a compelling article on thought process and truth. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds


  9. - Arsenal - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 10:01 am:

    There’s some wisdom here; don’t assume Trump’s schtick will work for you unless you’re really sure the FBI director is going to slam your opponent twice in the last two weeks of the election.

    But I also think there are some positive things you can learn from Trump: speak directly to what people want/need, don’t worry so much about political convention, press on even if you have potential scandals in your past…I mean, Trump takes all of these well past the extreme, but there’s something to all of them.


  10. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 10:16 am:

    (Tips cap to - FormerParatrooper - and - Curl of the Burl -)

    I’ll add this, very respectfully.

    There are some really great twitters by members of the GA that have their own tone and tenor and self-policing rules, rules that even break most of and/or all of my rules geared towards campaign twitters and un-policed pol Twitter accounts.

    I stand by this… “The best worst idea for Politics.”

    I stand by my rules too.

    But… if campaigns, especially, learn about the limitations of social media first, then they can try to build around the limitations to make their social media work.

    That might be the biggest lesson.


  11. - Anonymous - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 10:18 am:


    - jim - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 9:37 am:

    “decided to mock the far right’s incendiary rhetoric by tweeting”

    surely you don’t believe that lame explanation for Pritzker’s stupid tweet.”

    Jim, what’s your alternative explanation?


  12. - In 630 - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 10:27 am:

    Authenticity is high on the list of winning pol qualities. Unless they’re an authentic lunkhead.


  13. - walker - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    Great catches and analysis, Rich.

    The Arl Hts situation was surfaced and pounded home not by the press, but by at least three new Women’s March participant groups that formed immediately after that event. It was triggered and flowed on FB, which can be as dangerous as Twitter.

    There are over twenty new grassroots groups that formed around the Women’s March in just this NW suburban area, and there are probably many I don’t know about. Is it a “new” women’s movement with some staying power? Don’t pretend it’s not grassroots, and don’t bet against it.


  14. - VanillaMan - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 2:57 pm:

    Twitter harmed Trump.
    He would have won even bigger without it.


  15. - CapnCrunch - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 3:44 pm:

    Way too many rules Will, only need two.

    Rule number 1: Don’t tweet
    Rule number 2: Never disobey rule number 1.


  16. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 27, 17 @ 4:07 pm:

    - CapnCrunch -

    I hear ya.

    It’s kinda like laying out all the pitfalls and hope when they get to “10″ they refer back to
    “1″…


  17. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Feb 28, 17 @ 8:11 am:

    Tweetin’ ain’t easy.

    – MrJM


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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