Trump’s Twitter Gang

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_2

Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is exactly what you would expect: brash, self-confident, and over the top.

He has the most followers of any 2016 presidential candidate – 5.04 million, slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 4.79 million.

Trump’s feed is an extension of his campaign personality. Most candidates are as cautious with Twitter as they are with their speeches and websites, offering a bland stream of talking points and event promotions.

His tweets range from media criticism (“I find that @Reuters is a far more professional operation than @AP”) to shameless bashing of other candidates (“I want to do negative ads on John Kasich, but he is so irrelevant to the race that I don’t want to waste my money”).

This is hardly anything new for the business tycoon, whose Twitter use has always been a little unconventional. He tweeted for months about the relationship between actors Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, urging Pattinson to “drop her” and check out “the Miss Universe girls” instead. (He owned the Miss Universe pageant at the time.) He announced former congressman Anthony Weiner’s return to Twitter with a “pervert alert.” And he once wrote, “I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.”

Trump uses Twitter like a digital-age megaphone. His supporters – sometimes hundreds of them –  retweet his messages and offer their own thoughts about his campaign. And Trump in turn retweets them.

Who are these fans? I tracked down three of them who had been retweeted by Trump and asked why they are part of his Twitter gang.

John D’Orlando runs a manufacturing company that produces small custom parts for the semiconductor industry. A Massachusetts father of three, he joined Twitter to keep up with his son’s soccer team.

D’Orlando primarily uses Twitter to respond to others. “If somebody says something that I think is kinda crazy, I just tweet back at them,” he said. He often uses the platform to voice his dislike of Hillary Clinton (“hillary for prison 2016!”) and Jeb Bush (“jeb is done! What a loser!”)

D’Orlando says getting retweeted by Trump was actually an accident. He unintentionally left Donald Trump’s handle in a reply to someone else, and the tweet was picked up by Trump or a staff member tweeting for him. D’Orlando joked that he got in trouble with his wife after she began receiving hundreds of notifications to her Gmail account as his Trump tweet was favorited and retweeted.

D’Orlando says in an election he is “looking for people that are self-made and not people that have grown up handed positions in government, ushered in because they were the next one in line.”

D’Orlando believes that, as a businessman, Trump is the most qualified candidate to fix the “garbage” economy.

“Do I like everything that Donald Trump says and the way he treats certain people? No,” D’Orlando said. But he thinks Trump is the country’s best shot.

“Donald Trump doesn’t know how to build a building, but he builds the best buildings in the world,” he added. “He can’t talk concrete with you, but he puts the people around him who can.”

D’Orlando believes politicians have forgotten about workers in the manufacturing sector. “Nobody is looking out for us right now,” he said, adding that he makes less at age 50 than he did at 30.

“I’m looking at what happened in the last eight or ten years and I didn’t bring kids in the world for this,” he said. “We’re divided now. The whole race thing is ridiculous.”

“I’m a white guy but I never looked at another person as any different than anybody,” he said. “I want the person operating on me to be the smartest person whether he’s Indian or black or a woman.” But D’Orlando is frustrated with “the way it sounds on the news – that white people are bad to black people.”

If D’Orlando had to choose someone else, he would choose Sen. Ted Cruz, since “nobody likes him.” He wants to vote for someone “somebody that the establishment doesn’t like.”

D’Orlando doesn’t put much stock in the current polls. “If I want to make Hillary win a poll I just have to go to a bunch of women’s colleges and poll a bunch of liberal women and she’ll win 95 to 5,” he said. “Poll somebody who works with their hands and see what they think.”

Joseph Grcar is a retired mathematician living in Castro Valley, California. He was cat-sitting and flipping through channels when he caught a live feed of one of Trump’s first rallies. He got hooked.

“I don’t think honestly you can understand the Trump phenomenon until you listen to a few of his speeches,” he said. “I’d always wondered if the show [The Apprentice] was scripted, but he talks at rallies the same way,” he said.

He contrasted Trump’s authentic, unrehearsed speaking with Senator Marco Rubio’s “amazing ability to remember these two minute speeches” during debates.

Grcar joined Twitter to support Trump and send in suggestions directly to Trump’s team. “[Twitter] seems like the simplest way to send a one liner to the Trump campaign,” he said.

Trump retweeted Grcar’s critique of Ben Carson that said, “Gentle Ben is no match for Putin or if the truth be told even for Hilary. USA needs a winner.”  

The retweet “really got me going,” he laughed before admitting “I don’t think it was actually him. He has remarked that there are four or five people that retweet his stuff.”

Grcar calls himself a Reagan Democrat – he used to vote straight-ticket Democratic but switched to all-Republican when Reagan ran.

More recently, he stopped watching NBC and listening to NPR and began watching Fox News. “I can’t say if it’s more accurate, but it’s a completely different point of view,” he said.

Still, as Trump’s campaign heated up and Fox continued to focus on other candidates, he became more skeptical. “I then realized that these guys [at Fox] were the establishment Republican Party,” he said. “I got the feeling that Fox wasn’t giving me the whole story.”

Grcar said Trump has changed his attitude towards the Republican Party as a whole. “I always thought George Bush was a great president but now I don’t,” he said. “How could he have been protecting us when there were all these warnings beforehand? And then he engaged in this stupid war in Iraq that had nothing to do with Afghanistan.”

In July, Trump was sharply criticized for his harsh comments about Sen. John McCain’s war record. Trump said, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump’s comments struck a chord with Grcar. “I always wondered about that,” Grcar said, adding that McCain is “not exactly a hero. A hero is the guy who storms the bridge and singlehandedly takes out the machine gun, not someone dropping bombs on the poor hapless Vietnamese.”

“Once he got into Congress he didn’t do anything for the vets,” Grcar added.

Despite Trump’s provocative comments early on in the campaign, Grcar thinks Trump has become “more guarded” in the time since. He added, “His speeches aren’t as much fun as they were originally.”

Jack Dixon, 63, ran a melon farm in Arizona for years before he got sick and retired. During that time, he said, he employed thousands of migrant workers.

He believes Trump’s immigration plan is “absolutely perfect.” Dixon called the current H-2A guestworker program a “disaster” and wants immigrants to receive more legal work visas. Trump’s current proposal includes no provisions for immigrant work visas or H-2A reform.

Dixon was a Republican for 35 years but recently became a registered Independent. Although he has followed politics since he was young, this is the first campaign in which he has been vocally involved.

“I’ve lived in this world a long time, and for the last 50 years of my life I’ve seen this country decline,” he said.

Dixon is an active Twitter user, describing it as a great tool for “separating the mainstream media from the opinion of the public.”

His account launched June 12, four days before Trump announced his candidacy, and nearly all of his tweets are devoted to supporting the business mogul.  

Many of the tweets, including the one Trump retweeted, feature unsourced polling data Dixon later said he collected himself. “I know a lot of people,” he said. “That polling is as honest as a lot of the news media I believe today.”

Several of his tweets feature vulgar remarks aimed at female Twitter users. Dixon said he has the “greatest respect in the world for women” but “political correctness has gotten out of hand.”

Dixon also frequently critiques Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly. Dixon explained, “I think Fox News set Megyn Kelly up to really take a shot at Trump, and it kind of backfired on her.”

Dixon is especially concerned about the media’s treatment of Trump and bias towards other candidates. “We can’t let TVs pick our candidates anymore,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about honesty,” Dixon concluded. “Corruption has absolutely destroyed this nation. I believe Mr. Trump is an honest man and he would help clean some of that up.”

Asked about Trump’s frequent factual errors, he replied, “There’s a difference between a lie and an honest mistake,” he said. “No one is going to know everything.”




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