Trump and JFK: Masters of New Media

I didn’t use Newsweek’s clickbaity headline: “Trump and JFK Are More Alike Than We Like To Think.” They are different in many ways, but JFK was remembered for mastering the new medium of television (people who listened to the Nixon/Kennedy debates on radio were more likely to believe Nixon won, but those who watched the debates on TV were more likely to say Kennedy won), and while I pay more attention to his tweeting, Trump’s style appeals to many who know him as a reality TV star.

I think the Newsweek article undervalues the media skill of Ronald “The Great Communicator” Reagan, but it’s still a valuable analysis.

Kennedy understood the importance of television sooner and more completely than his political peers. In appearance and demeanor, if not in substance, he outperformed Richard Nixon in their famous televised debates. After he entered the White House, he made press conference broadcasts live events that won a larger audience and gave him the opportunity to speak directly to the American public without newsroom editors selecting from among his remarks…. Trump, for all his faults and foibles, is a master of the newest forms of political communication on cable news programs and in social media. Earlier presidential candidates—mostly Democrats from Howard Dean to Barack Obama to Bernie Sanders—showed how to use computer connections to effectively organize and energize supporters. But no one in recent presidential politics tapped into the raw power of the new instruments of political communication more often, or more effectively, than Donald Trump.  —Newsweek

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