Trump setting up political debate for a new Golden Era
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Imagine a world where politicians have substantive debates at any time of the day; you don’t need a cable subscription to watch, and you are the one directly asking the questions of them.

Is this a reality in 2016? No. But thanks to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner on Hannity touts Trump: 'He was a disruptor' Ivanka Trump doubles down on vaccine push with post celebrating second shot Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE and other contributing factors, we are closer than ever.

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With shifting demographics and a new way of consuming media, political discourse is being teed up for a golden era. And it starts with millennials, who will continue to become a larger share of active voters.

Many millennials don't watch political debates on live TV. In fact, a major proportion don’t even subscribe to cable service.

Yet, they are politically active, and do watch the debates online. So where does much of this political activity take place?

On social media.

This is where Facebook’s new Live feature comes in. Facebook has announced that it will soon allow for a two-way broadcast on Facebook Live. In other words, it will become a video chat that is public and easily sharable.

So the question is, in future election cycles, what would stop an impromptu debate between candidates on Facebook Live?

Think about it. No set time. No set agenda. No media moderator. No schedule conflicts with the NFL. Just the candidates debating the issues with the viewing public acting as the referees and commentators.  

Sound too far-fetched? Who would have guessed back in 2008 that a tweet from a presidential candidate would drive the news cycle for the next 24 hours?

Ahh, how far we’ve come.

Still not convinced? The signs for this new reality are already right in front of us.

Candidates have previously debated each other on Twitter. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights Hillary Clinton: Biden less 'constrained' than Clinton and Obama due to prior administration Biden's unavoidable foreign policy crisis MORE and Jeb Bush got in a tussle over over an infographic Clinton posted. Yes, this was still very scripted and not even from the candidates themselves, but it’s a precursor for what is to come.

Candidates soon will have the ability to call each other out on a whim and engage in oral discourse for everyone to see. Since they no longer need a major media outlet to carry the broadcast, doesn’t it make sense to go where the eyeballs are? A platform like Facebook has a larger reach than all the TV networks and cable stations combined.

Okay, here it comes ... “No candidates would ever put themselves at the risk of gaffing and being unprepared.”

Enter Trump.

Say all the negative things you want about his Twitter use, it is undeniable that he is unscripted, reactionary, and willing to engage his opponents on social media.

Fast forward a few years when the current millennials will be running for higher office. Some will even be eligible for president in the next election cycle. These future public servants feel comfortable letting loose on social media. It’s how they grew up. In fact, being on-demand and authentic on social media is the standard that is expected.

Alright, so now look at that equation we have. We are entering a new generation of politicians and voters who grew up using social media and embrace its organic nature. The technology is in place to allow candidates to publish to a global audience at any time, for free, and without logistical constraints. Compound all that with the young adults under 35 who do not have the same trust or nostalgia for traditional media as the older generation does.

It is appearing less far-fetched now and more like a forgone conclusion.

Of course, to some this may still be hard to picture given the current circumstances of this election. Trump is aggressive and uncivil on social media. Clinton is rigid, and her posts read like they’ve been vetted by several editors.

However, don’t make the mistake of thinking of the future in today’s context. Remember, millennials have shown to disdain demagogues and extreme partisanship. They also have a history of using social media to debate issues and do it with some level of civility (just take a look at my Facebook feed). To them, this standard in the new normal.

With future candidates who might embrace the chance for long-form, rich debates, doing it on social media will just makes sense. And for audiences who are already on there as part of their daily routine, it will make sense to them, too.

So thank you Donald Trump. You may have just led us into an era where by being more like you on social media, we will never have another candidate like you.

Adam Chiara is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Hartford. He has worked as a legislative aide, journalist, and as a public relations practitioner.


 

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