January 24, 2023 - 11:15am

A little over two years after Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook, the ex-president is now back on the former — Elon Musk reinstated his account on November 19 — and in the process of returning to the latter. Though his Facebook reboot may take longer due to political pressure from House Democrats to keep him off the platform, that was never Trump’s primary home. However, the man who was once the unofficial king of Twitter has not posted there since his reinstatement, instead focusing his attention on longer-form writings via Truth Social, the platform he founded. 

Reports have surfaced that Trump and his team are working on their first tweet, which may or may not be WWE-themed. If so, this is an ominous sign, as Trump’s prior success on the platform stemmed from off-the-cuff lines, not carefully considered, focus group-authored rejoinders like Hillary Clinton’s June 2016 “delete your account” clapback directed at Trump. Golden age Trump bestrode the platform like a colossus, firing off bangers ranging from the comedic to the inscrutable. He was the undisputed master of the medium.

The Trump who now posts on Truth Social is a far cry from this leaner, meaner version. Setting aside the merits of his claims, his more recent lines come across as shrill and tedious. It might fire up his base, but it won’t energise the irreverent, Right-leaning Twitter users who can get their entertaining “based” takes elsewhere, from accounts that owe something to Trump’s posting work and may even honour his legacy, yet make his own material look positively antiquated.

Even in the final months of his first run on Twitter, Trump was far from his old self. He wasn’t crude and impolitic, a brahma bull in a china shop; he was defensive and embattled, never more so than the day the old Twitter regime gave him the boot. That ban, which Musk has criticised, had the effect of severing him from his younger, more media-savvy audience, as most of these people weren’t going to follow him to other, less popular platforms simply because Trump was there. 

The former president will be returning to Twitter with vastly more baggage than he brought with him to Washington in 2017. Unlike Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his likely 2024 rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump has to walk a more careful path regarding the vaccines developed during his administration, touting their efficacy even as he opposes mandated use. 

DeSantis, meanwhile, can join with a growing minority of Republican voters to oppose vaccination altogether or, like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and former MAGA influencer Rochelle ‘Silk’ Richardson of ‘Diamond and Silk’ fame, demand a detailed governmental investigation of the development and manufacture of the vaccines. For many of these voters, Trump — a representative of the old regime, albeit a reluctant one — is likely to be increasingly regarded as uncool at best and an unwitting tool of elite interests at worst. 

Trump’s return to Twitter offers a chance for the resumption of his pithier, edgier comedic content while Truth Social can retain its value, such as it is, by housing his lengthier political diatribes. While in office, DeSantis can continue to point to various accomplishments related to reining in “woke discourse” in Florida, but Trump may well try combat that advantage by initiating a guerrilla war. This battle would be waged via subversive comedy and tenacious trolling of the sort that propelled him past his Republican rivals in 2016. The former king (of Twitter) could yet return.

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work