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Opinion Donald Trump is back on Twitter. Here’s why we shouldn’t fear.

Former president Donald Trump speaks remotely to the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday. (David Becker for The Washington Post)

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 in too many ways to count.

Given the central role Twitter played in Trump’s 2016 campaign and his presidency, it’s natural to fear that this development can only be dangerous for the country. But don’t panic! Trump may have injected a special brand of virulence into Twitter his first go-round — but both average readers and the news media have, let’s hope, developed the antibodies to protect us from further harm.

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” (try saying that without laughing) are almost entirely whining and complaining — about the various investigations into his misbehavior, about President Biden, about other Democrats, about anyone and everyone who isn’t praising him with sufficient vigor. 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.

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These days, Trump is as petty and vindictive as ever, but he doesn’t seem to be having any fun. In short: He’s 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 to some new conspiracy theory or repulsively bigoted tweet with “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 something outrageous, 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 percent of Trump’s tweets during his term in office ended up in news stories, according to her research, compared with just 3 percent for Barack Obama in his second term. That will no longer be the case.

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 — will 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. For the majority of Americans who dislike him, seeing more of him doesn’t make them feel better about him.

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.

As of this writing, Trump has yet to tweet anything since Musk restored his account. But now that his archive is visible once again, you can see where it left off when he was banned. The last entry, in typically petulant 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 is not done poisoning our politics, not by a long shot. He might still win his party’s nomination, and he could become president again. But if that happens, it will only be because a terrible series of events made it possible. It won’t be because Trump got his Twitter account back.

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