A persecuted man. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

April 2, 2024   4 mins

In recent weeks, the campaign to stop Donald Trump from once again reaching the White House has grown increasingly surreal. From the start, the lawfare against the former president had a very scattershot character, like a shotgun fired from the hip: even if most cases against him failed, the hope was clearly that at least one or two would stick. And the gamble appeared to pay off: for a moment, Trump was staring down the prospect of having to pay a bond amounting to almost half-a-billion dollars as a result of one fraud case.

Given the way the lawfare against Trump was conducted, however, it doesn’t really matter whether this particular case had merit or not, or whether Trump really did engage in fraud or not. Both sides in this political dispute made up their minds long ago.

But even when it seemed that Trump had finally been cornered by some truly insurmountable legal costs, serendipity appeared to once again intervene on his behalf. The tiny social media platform, Truth Social, which Trump helped to create partly in response to having his Facebook and Twitter accounts banned, last week went public, leading to a truly staggering explosion of the company’s value. Like a phoenix, Trump’s fortunes seemed set to rise from the ashes yet again — only for Truth Social’s stock to plummet yesterday.

Now, there’s really no way to spin it: Truth Social is a joke as a company. Founded mostly as a result of a specific, parochial political grievance, it has a minuscule user base and almost no revenue streams to speak of. Even the business models of today’s largest social media companies are questionable in the long-term, especially now that the fairy-tale period of permanent zero interest rate policies seems to be over. If Twitter can’t turn a profit, then Truth Social definitely can’t.

Still, even despite yesterday’s collapse, to say that Truth Social is a foolish investment is to miss the point. The company that owns Truth Social — Trump Media & Technology Group — has the stock ticker “DJT”, which is itself very revealing. Just as the courts, which are meant to be impartial and non-political, can be weaponised in the ongoing war between America’s two political tribes, so can stock purchases. Though stocks are in theory expressions of non-political, cold economic logic, in practice, they can be easily turned into a political cudgel. Indeed, many people buying Truth Social stock are doing so in order to both literally and figuratively invest in Donald J. Trump — though others are probably hoping to pass on the stock to a greater fool down the road. To be clear, this isn’t the first time stock purchases have become a backdrop for political drama; a while back, the stock of the video game retailer, GameStop, became the centre of a similar campaign of buying a stock as a form of revenge.

In any event, the result will be the same: an almost voluntary, “consensual” stock market bubble, where few people are likely to have any illusions as to what the end point of it all is. In a way, the Truth Social gambit is actually incredibly inspired: in the US, political campaign donations are ring-fenced with a massive number of rules and regulations. Investing in $DJT, on the other hand? That is every man, woman and child’s unalienable and unrestricted economic right.

“Investing in Truth Social is every man, woman and child’s unalienable and unrestricted economic right.” 

In this way, Trump has, entirely by accident, run rings around the entire campaign finance regulatory framework. The same logic of “us-versus-them” that allowed American liberals to approve of any attempt to stop Trump from running for president, no matter how spurious or far-fetched, is now on display in equal measure from the opposite side of the political divide. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the battle between Trump and his political enemies is starting to resemble something out of an old cartoon show. Like Bugs Bunny battling it out against his arch-nemesis Elmer Fudd, neither Trump nor his enemies are ever truly defeated. As the show goes on, each side simply comes up with increasingly bizarre methods to get their enemy into trouble or escape it themselves.

But this is not a laughing matter. Even though the individual twists and turns in this political drama may seem absurd or humorous, the underlying truth is that the American political system is rapidly being destroyed. A functioning republic requires a base level of respect for political opponents, and that is now being torched on both sides. Worse yet, the US is inching closer to a massive financial crisis and even real bankruptcy, as the constantly increasing levels of debt will sooner or later result in a situation where the burden of interest payments breaks the federal budget.

This combination of acute social and economic problems, and a political system so mired in infighting and mutual hatred that it can’t focus on anything else, is — and this is putting it mildly — not a happy one. Yet this is exactly the situation in which the US finds itself. There is no longer any real possibility of fixing the fiscal situation at all; the most recent numbers show that the US is now adding debt at a ground-breaking pace of roughly $1 trillion per three months. To get a sense of what this means in practice, it now takes slightly less than three months for the US to add enough debt to make its added interest payments larger than the annual budget of the entire US Marine Corps. This is in no way sustainable even over the short term; yet the US political class is too obsessed with infighting, grandstanding and demagoguery of various kinds to even notice the very real iceberg that is now straight ahead of them.

Given that neither Trump nor Biden nor anyone else seems able to escape this dynamic, 2024 might turn out to be one of those elections where there is no winner. For who seriously still believes that either man has got what it takes to turn over a new leaf in 2025 and heal all that has been poisoned, and repair what is now being broken? Perhaps, at a time like this, we find the true poetic genius of the Truth Social scheme: like the American political system, it doesn’t even pretend to have a business model anymore.

Malcom Kyeyune is a freelance writer living in Uppsala, Sweden