On Thursday, Hillary Clinton delivered the microphone drop put-down of her short presumptive presidential candidate career to date.
It went like this…
Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2016
Delete your account. https://t.co/Oa92sncRQY
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 9, 2016
“It was funny. But was it presidential?” mused Vox.
“Things just got real,” gasped Rachel Dicker of the U.S. News & World Report.
“No one should get that joke,” insisted (/demanded) Washington Post’s Philip Bump.
Margarita Noriega of Newsweek opted for a helpful bullet-point guide to deleting a twitter account. Thanks, Noriega.
Meanwhile actual people – voters – went for this:
— Jon McQueen (@JonMcQueen) June 9, 2016
Most coverage has assumed that the tweet – and the ensuing burn-trading with Trump – was the product of a team of hundreds of campaign staff. The Guardian’s Arwa Mahdawi in particular, offered a cynical glimpse into the campaign behemoth that likely cranked out Hillary’s three word post.
But it doesn’t matter whether Hillary had brief, blissful access to her own twitter account, or whether some intern has just earned themselves a window desk. It doesn’t even really matter that ‘delete your account’ was totally three or four memes ago.
When it comes to social media, the distance between politicians and people collapses. The immediacy and informality of social platforms raises the bar for voters’ expectation of politicians to take advantage of that collapse in the distance between the office and the electorate, and to show flashes of real personality beyond the standard catalogue of ‘Thank you, [insert person / people / place here]!’ and ‘Great to be on the campaign trail!’
It reminds me of working on the UK Labour leadership campaign last summer, when contender Andy Burnham, the then-Shadow Health Secretary, broke up his standard campaign twitter feed with this:
— Jo Booth (@JoBooth10) July 1, 2015
Nobody really expects politicians to be just like them, and laboured efforts to do so are generally nauseating (usually because they include phrases like ‘I’m pretty normal’ or ‘I’m just like you’ which is an immediate red flag to the audience that the speaker is most definitely neither). But nearly 600,000 likes for Hillary, and Andy’s outburst clinching a wavering voter? They show that just treating social media as a slightly condensed campaign website doesn’t work. An uninterrupted flow of campaign updates doesn’t cut it. As for whether it’s done by the candidate or her team? Who cares. Just sometimes people flock to see glimpses of politicians seeming to talk and post like the non-politicians they follow. Which apparently includes “delete your account”. #burn.