Trump on plane Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s Dark Art of the Tweet

Thus far, Trump has proven a more effective political communicator than his critics expected. But whether he can succeed in the long term with his unconventional approach is one of the great questions facing his presidency.

CAMBRIDGE – President Donald Trump’s critics have consistently underestimated his political communication skills, perhaps because he is so different from predecessors such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Both FDR and Reagan, after all, were known as “great communicators.”

Although large segments of the American population hated them, FDR and Reagan addressed the American people as a whole and tried to appeal to the center. Trump, by contrast, has appealed primarily to the minority that elected him. His inaugural address sounded like a campaign speech; and, after taking office, a series of false statements and provocative executive orders has undercut his credibility with the center but reinforced it with his base.

Trump’s communication skills were honed in the world of reality television, where outrageous and provocative statements entertain audiences and boost viewership. He used that approach during the Republican primary to dominate attention among a crowded field of 17 candidates. By one estimate, Trump received the equivalent of $2 billion of free television advertising, swamping the $100 million in paid advertising raised by his Republican rival, Jeb Bush.

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