Trump’s political opponents are using his combative Twitter strategy against him

April 20, 2017
In The News

President Donald Trump’s unique tweeting habits have helped him build a public persona that is direct, candid, and pugnacious. While he is not the first politician to us Twitter as a direct mouthpiece to the people, he takes his candidness to a new level.  

But it’s worked, allowing him to control the narrative and keeping media attention on him. And now, his political opponents are increasingly turning to the social network with similar tactics to take back the platform.  

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have been two of the most vocal opposition figures, and now, they are joined by a new guard of Twitter political leaders, including Democrats Rep. Ted Lieu and Sen. Kamala Harris, both of California, who are not afraid to be combative—and are making names for themselves as a result.

Here are some of the best tweets from the Twitter opposition.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (@sensanders)

Almost immediately upon conceding his primary defeat to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sanders returned to the task of representing the state of Vermont in the Senate—and liberal netizens everywhere on Twitter.

Shortly after he conceded the election, he had this to say about Trump:

Those who voted for me will not support Trump who has made bigotry and divisiveness the cornerstone of his campaign. #RNCwithBernie

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) 10:28 PM - 21 Jul 2016

And his fighting words only increased in strength, leading to many to crown Bernie as the new leader of the resistance.

Donald Trump just picked an anti-labor CEO as his secretary of Labor. What happened to his promise of siding with workers?

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 11:54 AM - 10 Dec 2016

One of his most poignant and effective tweets came on Jan. 20, in direct response to Trump’s claims about his Inauguration Day crowd size:

.@realDonaldTrump They did. It wasn't.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 8:56 AM - 25 Feb 2017

More recently, Sanders has taken to Twitter to remind followers of the voters whom Trump has left behind:

Mr. Trump promised again and again to help “forgotten" people. And yet it appears he’s the one who's forgotten them …

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 12:30 PM - 11 Apr 2017

A lot of working people voted for Trump because they thought he was going to stand up for them. Well, it turns out that's not the case.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 1:11 PM - 14 Apr 2017

And to advocate for the same progressive values that he campaigned on as a candidate and fought for as a senator:

Making sure every American has the right to health care is not a radical idea. It is as American as apple pie. …

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 10:27 AM - 8 Apr 2017

It's clear: Medicare for all is not a radical idea. It's supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. …

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 2:45 PM - 6 Apr 2017

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren)

Warren’s progressive bona fides on and offline have drawn speculation regarding a potential presidential run for the senator. (She recently denied having White House-sized ambitions—but left the possibility open.) In the meantime, she tackles serious policy issues with tough questioning, persists in the face of blatant sexism, and, in the meantime, trolls Trump virally online:

Turns out, an illegal Muslim ban by another name is still an illegal Muslim ban. So the courts just blocked @realDonaldTrump's second one.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) 8:27 PM - 15 Mar 2017

When Warren’s fellow senators silenced her from reading Loretta Scott King’s letter, to protest against Jeff Sessions as attorney general, she responded forcefully with a tweetstorm that went viral.  

If Jeff Sessions makes even the tiniest attempt to bring his racism, sexism & bigotry into @TheJusticeDept, he'll hear from all of us.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) 8:30 PM - 8 Feb 2017

And you better believe every Senator who voted to put Jeff Sessions’s radical hatred into @TheJusticeDept will hear from all of us, too.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) 8:31 PM - 8 Feb 2017

Consider this MY warning: We won’t be silent. We will speak out. And we WILL persist.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) 8:33 PM - 8 Feb 2017

But her virality was not limited to her words. After the incident, #NeverthelessShePersisted became a trending hashtag and Warren herself had her progressive hero status solidified:

@hmcghee Cheyenne WY Marched and Resisted! 60 Women came to get tattooed at our @PPact Fundraiser! #TaxMarch #Neverthelessshepersisted

— Prairie Folk Mama (@PrairieFolkMama) 10:13 PM - 15 Apr 2017

Rep. Ted Lieu (@tedlieu)

Before Lieu joined Congress in 2011, he served in the California State Assembly since 2005.  As a congressman representing California, Lieu maintains both an “official” Twitter, of the sort that you would expect to see from a politician, as well as his personal account, which is what you would hope to see from a politician—as if this version of Twitter is his anger translator, without the translator.  

His tweets since Trump’s election are delightfully snarky…

Dear @POTUS: Here's a tip. Get a briefing from US officials before you meet with a foreign leader. Or try reading. …

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) 2:26 AM - 13 Apr 2017

Perhaps Jared Kushner can inquire why U.S. forces have killed a lot more Iraqi civilians after his father-in-law took office. …

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) 2:01 AM - 3 Apr 2017

…Set the facts straight:

If true, this is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Congress never authorized @POTUS to engage in war on #Assad in #Syria. …

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) 9:15 PM - 6 Apr 2017

Provide smart context as an Air Force veteran:

March to war in #Syria without a strategy is both dangerous and ILLEGAL. #Trump cannot go to war against #Assad w/o congressional approval.

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) 8:12 PM - 6 Apr 2017

And serves as a news round-ups for anyone that’s missed the latest:

Today we learned: Nunes is lapdog for Trump; White House @PressSec lied again; and @nytimes is succeeding while @realDonaldTrump is failing. …

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) 1:47 PM - 30 Mar 2017

Sen. Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris)

The freshman senator from California has been a social media star since before she even took office, taking to Twitter to defend American values:

Targeting & registering Muslims because of their faith goes against everything we stand for as Americans. We are better than that.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) 1:49 PM - 18 Nov 2016

One of her stand-out social media moments was in her amplification of the hashtag #DressLikeAWoman, in response to private remarks by Trump about how he would prefer that women dress in the office.

To the White House: here are some ways to #DressLikeAWoman.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) 2:49 PM - 3 Feb 2017

Harris is particularly vocal in her support of women.

This group just made it more difficult for women to get access to health care worldwide. You tell me what's wrong with this picture.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) 4:13 PM - 23 Jan 2017

While her trolling of Trump is more muted than that of her colleague, Lieu, she’s still not afraid to reveal her opinion, and constituents are noticing.

Check out this whole thread. @KamalaHarris's leadership in the Democratic Party is like a breath of fresh air. #DressLikeAWoman …

— Justin Lu (@JustinCLu) 1:36 PM - 4 Feb 2017

One of the reasons that Trump has always been so refreshing and appealing for his supporters was that he had no problem giving voice to—and sometimes stoking—the anger that many ordinary Americans feel. This is especially clear in contrast to politicians who are diplomatic and calculated—a key criticism lobbed at Clinton—and an environment that many believe to be stiflingly politically correct.

As his opponents are showing, however, Trump does not have a monopoly on expressing his emotions on Twitter. With liberal voices like Lieu and Harris stepping in to join old-guard opponents like Warren and Sanders to candidly express the frustration of the left, perhaps their increased combativeness on Twitter will be just as reenergizing to their supporters as Trump’s was to his.