Axelrod: 2020 Democrats Are Unprepared To Wage Meme War Against Donald Trump

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Former Obama advisor David Axelrod speaks with CNN's Brian Stelter about the president's use of memes and tweets and how the political media can prepare to cover campaigns in the modern social media environment.

Stelter asked Axelrod about this headline from Mother Jones this week, "The Left Can’t Meme": How Right-Wing Groups Are Training the Next Generation of Social Media Warriors, and wondered: "These are the meme wars in action. Do you think Democrats understand what they are up against?"





Axelrod said Democrats are in "uncharted waters" when it comes to responding to Trump's use of the new generation of social media. "You have a president who is going to be live tweeting the opposite party's primary -- you better believe when anything happens in the Democratic race, he will have a comment. He will advance a meme like this and Democrats are going to have to figure out how to deal with it."

"Elizabeth Warren got into the back and forth on the Pocahontas thing," he explained. "And what she learned, I think, is that engaging in a long back and forth with him is what he wants. It's a tricky, tricky path to navigate."

The meme-maker, Carpe Donktum, turned this video mocking Stelter around in only a few hours by Sunday afternoon:



BRIAN STELTER, CNN: Here's what Biden is up against, this is how it may keep coming back and back. this is a meme created from a semi-anonymous man from Kansas. He posted it and then Trump world posted it, and the president himself posted it on Twitter.

It's Biden fondling himself.

On one level it's just a funny meme. On another level, this is how politics is waged these days. These are the meme wars in action. Do you think Democrats understand what they are up against? There was a Mother Jones headline the other day saying the right-wing media machine is more effective at this kind of visual communication and the Democrats aren't trying.

DAVID AXELROD: Yeah, they are effective at digital communications and they are effective at talking to their base. The question is how much it infects the rest of the coverage, but this is uncharted waters, as are many things with Trump. You have a president who is going to be, excuse me, live tweeting the opposite party's primary and you better believe that when anything happens in the Democratic race, he will have a comment. He will advance a meme like this, and Democrats are going to have to figure out how to deal with it.

Elizabeth Warren got into the back and forth on the Pocahontas thing and what she learned, I think, is that engaging in a long back and forth with him is what he wants. It's a tricky, tricky path to navigate.

STELTER: The Dems are using television quite effectively though. One day a couple of days ago Tim Ryan is announcing his candidacy on "The View" and the next day Castro is campaigning on The Breakfast Club radio show and on Monday Eric Swalwell is expected to announce his run on Stephen Colbert's "Late Show," and town halls, we have five town halls on CNN this week. We're seeing an effective use of television perhaps.

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