This week, Hillary Clinton’s campaign will air its first general election campaign ad, targeting Donald Trump for his insensitive comments (about whom? Speaking for American writers as a whole, we’re tired of listing) and for his supporters’ tendency toward violence.
This ad might be news except for the fact that thanks to Twitter, the politically-minded are treated to a 24/7 deluge of attack ads from both sides. If we’re really feeling ballsy, we can even get involved in the attack by poking some trolls from the opposite side of the political spectrum.
To say this is unprecedented would be false: in 2008 and 2012, social media was there to give us an opportunity to call each other stupid from the comfort of our homes, but not until 2016 have the two candidates been so directly involved in what appears each day to be more of a Twitter feud between reality TV stars than a debate between presidential candidates. I’m not dropping any hot takes by saying that Trump’s Twitter is particularly egregious on this count, but the fact that Clinton so readily stoops to a schoolyard level on the platform is distressing because as President Obama reminded us in his endorsement of Secretary Clinton last week, she may be the single most qualified person to ever seek the office.
She shouldn’t have to engage Trump’s troll tactics on the Internet—she’s lived in the White House, been actively involved with national politics since she was a teenager, been a senator and the secretary of state all while listening to people like Donald Trump spit vile insults her way at every turn.
At any other time, I might be really happy to see a democratic candidate so eager to take off the gloves and call a bigoted republican spade a bigoted republican spade, but right now the country needs a Hillary Clinton who can stand up to the greater republican hypocrisies that allowed someone like Trump to hijack the party in the first place. When you’re facing a reality TV show host for whom scapegoating is more of a pastime than practicing Blue Steel, Le Tigre and Magnum in the mirror while combing the pube plugs on his head, engaging him is the worst thing you can possibly do. No matter what you say, there’s no way you can prepare for the next absurdism that escapes his brain-to-mouth expressway.
As 49 people lay dead in Orlando, guilty of nothing other than enjoying their weekend, another platitude-laden conversation will take over our airwaves. Trump, now toeing ever closer to the party line as the campaign donations he originally refused to take steadily build up, will come out against “mental illness” while pandering to the NRA and scapegoating Islam yet again.
While he is accepting “Congratulations” for being “right” on Islamic terrorism, Hillary is spending time bashing the Donald on Twitter instead of acting like she’s above the fray to deal with the worst shooting in our history. And for the record, she is above the fray.
I don’t think that politicians shouldn’t use Twitter, or even that it shouldn’t be a part of the presidential race. But there’s a difference between getting your platform out there 140 characters at a time and looking for a fight like a troll in his ergonomic chair, Dorito dust on the keyboard.