Column: With great power comes no responsibility


Photo courtesy of Politico

As the sun sets and I begin my homework, the TV glows a blinding shade of white. 140 characters grace the screen, written by none other than President Donald Trump. I glance up, glaze over the words, and return to my laptop.

In recent weeks, this scene has become somewhat of a ritual for me. The unfiltered and insensitive comments from peers I experience at school don’t end when I come home. Trump’s commentary on immigration, Obamacare, and Meryl Streep trumps (sorry) any news of natural disasters, deaths, or award shows.

Our new Commander-In-Chief is the most influential figure in the news cycle. He dominates the media, social networks, and conversations with little more than an offhand comment. But when it comes to the economy, Trump is often able to influence the markets —  the fate of a company, its suppliers, and its employees — with a single tweet. Why is this?

The answer is simple: the President’s opinions change from day to day. Traders at the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) or Chicago Mercantile Exchange know this. They also know that Trump doesn’t make use of press briefings and written statements to make his feelings known. Rather, Twitter serves as his primary medium of expression, letting American citizens and Congressmen know of his thoughts simultaneously.

Before Nov. 8, Trump’s Twitter feed was nothing more than a joke, fodder for late night talk shows. Within the past three months, the situation has profoundly changed; Trump’s thoughts – and thus, tweets – have the power to shake up the American economy, and the world as a whole. His mindless dwellings and pointed tweets aren’t a trivial matter anymore; they signify potential courses of action, executive orders in the making. And people — whether traders, other government officials, or citizens — react accordingly.

Take, for instance, Trump’s tweet regarding Lockheed Martin, an aerospace, and defense company noted for producing fighter jets. He berates Lockheed Martin’s high prices and asks Boeing to compete with them.

Minutes after his tweet, the market reacted. Lockheed Martin’s stock price dropped by 2.1%. The impact of Trump’s words is even more striking considering that the aforementioned tweet was written Dec. 22, about a month before Trump took office. If his social media presence has the power to influence a company’s fate so considerably, one can only imagine its effect during his presidency.

Still not shaken by the impact of 140 characters? Let’s examine Trump’s impact on a handful of automotive companies. Early this year, Trump posted the following to his Twitter feed: 

That very morning, General Motor’s stock dropped 0.7%. Experts speculate that the drop may have been caused by fear of government intervention in General Motor’s operation, which may have halted production.

Fearing industry-wide repercussions, Ford Motors promptly took action. The automotive giant announced their plans to cancel the development of a manufacturing plant in Mexico, injecting the budgeted capital into its Michigan facilities instead.

In this case, Trump’s impact wasn’t negative. Rather, it will add hundreds, if not thousands of jobs to the American marketplace, and I applaud him for using his platform to champion such a cause. But what he needs to recognize is that his Twitter impact stretches far beyond Fortune 500 companies, or the economy, or even the United States.

The President’s Twitter feed has taken on paramount importance in the last few months, and he has demonstrated its power. Now, the time is ripe for him to use his presence as a force for good. Rather than inciting a debate over the credibility of esteemed Rep. John Lewis, or asserting the ‘yuge’ size of his inauguration crowds, he needs to use Twitter to further social, economic, and political change. Nor is it acceptable any longer for him to treat Twitter as a running blog of his thoughts. His words are now treated as law, and it is imperative that he sees them as equally powerful. Companies such as Nordstrom have already taken steps to fight back against Trump’s schoolyard bully attitude. The media, government and American citizens need to follow suit and hold the President accountable for and to his responsibilities and ensure he recognizes the gravity of his social media presence.

Donald J. Trump opened his Twitter account in March of 2009. For the past eight years, he has used the platform to further his own agenda, whether regarding policy or his thoughts on Katy Perry’s marriage. As our new President, it’s time for him to recognize the power his words now hold, and use them in terms of furthering the American agenda, not just his.