The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump’s social media exile is the best thing that ever happened to him

Former president Donald Trump during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club on July 7 in Bedminster, N.J. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Former president Donald Trump is suing Big Tech, calling his banishment from Twitter and Facebook “unconstitutional” and “one of the gravest threats to our democracy.” In truth, Trump’s social media exile is the best thing that ever happened to him. It could even help him win back the White House.

First, social media censorship gives Trump a great issue on which he has the support of a majority of Americans. A 2020 Pew poll found that 72 percent of Americans say social media companies have too much power and influence in politics today, and 73 percent say it’s likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints they find objectionable — including 90 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats. Big Tech is the perfect foil for Trump.

Second, his absence from people’s social media feeds is a blessing in disguise. Joe Biden won in 2020 because, while millions of American were doing better under Trump, they were also exhausted with Trump. Before the election, Gallup reported that a 49 percent plurality of Americans agreed with Trump over Biden on the issues, and 56 percent said they were better off than they were four years before. Not only is that the highest number since Gallup started asking that question, it came in the midst of the worst pandemic since 1918, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and the worst racial unrest since the 1960s.

But 56 percent of Americans didn’t vote for Trump. Why? Because, despite being a reality-TV star, Trump never followed the advice to “always leave them wanting more.” For Trump, there was no such thing as overexposure. More was always better because it energized his loyal base — even if it drove away millions of persuadable voters who approved of his policies but not of him.

The genius of Biden’s basement strategy was that he exploited both the Trump exhaustion among the voting public and Trump’s failure to recognize it. Both he and Trump wanted the election to be about Trump. Biden understood what Trump did not — that the more Trump-fatigued swing voters saw of the sitting president, the better. So he handed the stage over to Trump — and let him talk suburban and independent voters out of casting their ballots for him.

Now, Twitter and Facebook have taken that stage away. Trump is stuck at Mar-a-Lago, unable to live-tweet the Biden presidency. He emerges for the occasional interview, rally or border visit. But he is not in Americans’ faces 24/7/365. And that means Trump-exhausted voters are getting a much-needed Trump respite.

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then this is good for Trump. It is quite possible that in a few years, the Trump presidency will look a lot better to many Americans. Memories of all the things they disliked about Trump will fade, and his many substantive accomplishments in office will be magnified over time.

This will be especially true if Democrats continue overstepping their mandate. Biden did not win the White House because voters were clamoring for record-breaking levels of spending, open borders or critical race theory taught in schools. He won because people were tired of chaos. By silencing Trump, Big Tech is eliminating the chaos that propelled Biden into the Oval Office.

It is unclear whether Trump plans to be king or kingmaker in 2024. Whichever he chooses, if he wants to throw Democrats out of the White House, he needs to understand that he lost not because of voter fraud but because he alienated too many voters. To win back the White House, Republicans need to win back the voters Trump drove away. That will be easier after they’ve had a little bit of a breather from Trump.

On some level, Trump seems to understand this. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender, Trump claimed he is actually glad to be off Twitter. The statements he issues on email are “much more elegant,” he said, adding, “Now I actually have time to make phone calls, and do other things and read papers that I wouldn’t read.” If he wants to win back millions of Trump-weary Americans who abandoned him in 2020, spending more time making calls and reading papers for a while is the way to go.

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