20221120 trump
Trump's once-blocked Twitter account has reappeared on the platform Image Credit: AFP

It has been less than a month since Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion. Already, he’s created chaos in a purge of employees that threatens to run the site into the ground. Now, he has restored Donald Trump to the platform, from which he was banned after fomenting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and violating Twitter’s terms of service.

As it happens, Trump is under contractual obligation to post any missives first to his niche network Truth Social; after several hours he can repost them elsewhere. On Saturday, Trump claimed he wasn’t planning a Twitter return. But whether he tweets, a look through his Truth Social feed illustrates the limited appeal he might have there.

His “truths” are almost entirely about the various investigations into his misbehaviour, about President Biden, about other Democrats, about anyone and everyone who isn’t praising him with sufficient vigour. Much like the speech he made announcing his 2024 candidacy for president, it’s all been there, done that: Nothing he’s saying has any of the verve of his first candidacy, which brought with it a sense of unpredictability, thrilling his supporters and shocking everyone else.

More on the topic

These days, Trump is somewhat boring.

While we in the media may not have figured out exactly how to handle Trump, the kind of gobsmacked coverage that allowed him to use us as a megaphone is far less common than it was seven years ago. No one will react like, “Oh my god, can you believe he said that?!?” We already believe it — because we’ve seen it countless times before. And we’re primed to be much more thoughtful this time about what deserves our attention.

That was the whole point of Trump’s prior relationship with Twitter: During the 2016 campaign and throughout his presidency, Trump used it as an attention lever. He understood that what mattered was not how many people were on Twitter but who was on it: journalists.

There are over a dozen platforms with more total users, but Twitter is where reporters monitor the day’s news, promote their stories and talk to one another. Every time Trump tweeted, he knew journalists would see it and write stories, enabling him to shape the news agenda and get everyone talking about him.

It was remarkably effective. As one media scholar told me just after Trump was banned from Twitter in 2021: 65 per cent of Trump’s tweets during his term in office ended up in news stories, according to her research, compared with just 3 per cent for Barack Obama in his second term. That will no longer be the case.

Trump and twitter
Illustrative image. Image Credit: Shutterstock

This is not to say that some Trump tweets won’t be worthy of discussion. But few people believe it’s vitally important to track and examine his every emission.

There’s also good reason to believe that whatever attention Trump gets — via Twitter or anywhere else — may only hurt his potential candidacy and the fortunes of his party. As rapturous as his base is, it comprises only a minority of the electorate.

It also — and this is crucial for the GOP — doesn’t make very many people want to vote for candidates who most fervently express their loyalty to Trump. Just ask Kari Lake, Blake Masters, Mehmet Oz, Adam Laxalt or any of the other Trumpists who lost in the midterms.

Trump’s last entry, in typically fashion, reads, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” Scroll down and you’re reminded of everything that made him such a malign force in American life.

Trump might still win his party’s nomination, and he could become president again. But if that happens, it will only be because a series of events made it possible. It won’t be because Trump got his Twitter account back.

Washington Post

Paul Waldman is an American op-ed columnist and senior writer