In less than six weeks, Mississippians will join the rest of the nation at the polls and select the next President of the United States. In many ways, social media has driven this year’s election, but platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat may not offer all the information needed to select a candidate. MPB’s Paul Boger attended a forum at the University of Mississippi where some prominent Mississippians and journalists are urged voters to take a closer look at the people running.
If you go on Twitter looking for news, you’d be hard pressed to go five minutes without seeing a tweet about either the Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump or his opponent Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“This was billed, potentially, as the Twitter, Snapchat election.”
That’s Andy Lack, the Chairman of NBC News. He, along with long-time NBC Nightly news anchor Tom Brokaw, former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour were among the panelists speaking about presidential politics in Oxford last week. Lack says the use of social media this campaign season has been unprecedented.
“In this case, I think Mr. Trump would say Twitter was his best way of communicating without the need of anyone else helping him shape his message. If you’re in the press getting that unfiltered Donald every morning, starting at 6 o’clock, and often an avalanche – a tirade of comments – we haven’t seen anything like that.”
Governor Barbour says Trump has been able to use Twitter to tap into the anger many in Mississippi and around the country have been feeling for several years.
“All of this has to deal with the fact that the American people are mad and they’re scared. About two-thirds of Americans say they think the country’s going in the wrong direction. That number has been over 60 percent over the past three years. And let me just say this, fewer than 40 percent of the people of the United States are Republicans. So there are a whole lot of people who are not Republicans think the country is going in the wrong direction. And that drives a lot of this.”
Not everyone is convinced social media has had a positive impact on the election. Former Tennessee Congressman and current political contributor for MSNBC, Harold Ford, says it's dividing Americans.
“I actually think social media has had a corrosive effect on politics and the discussion of real policy. It has certainly made it harder for substance to be introduced in a real sustained way.”
Former NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw says American need to find a way to sift through the information and misinformation available on social media.
“Construct for yourself a kind of filtration system. Put as much effort into finding out which of those sources you can trust in the long haul as you would a new flat screen television or a pair of running shoes or a car. You’ve got to be an informed consumer. In this society, you have to be an informed voter.”
But what are the issues Americans should be concerned with?
“How are we going to deal with ISIL? I think it’s the defining issue of our time. It’s not the junior varsity. It’s a very sophisticated military operation representing no single ideological or philosophical point of view. It’s, mostly, takedown the West, and we have to deal with that in some fashion.”
Governor Barbour says anger over the economy will be a defining issue.
“48.8 percent of Americans have a full-time job; most do not. Our unemployment rate has dropped primarily because of people who have quit looking for jobs, not because of people who got jobs. So you can understand why they’re mad.”
However, Brokaw says this election is far from over.
“The unforeseen will occur. It has happened several times during this campaign. It can happen between now and November 7th because we’re not playing by the usual rules. The conventions have been thrown out, in terms of the normal conventions of a presidential campaign, in my judgment.”
Voter registration in Mississippi ends this Saturday. Clinton and Trump will face eath other in their second debate this Sunday.