by Oliver Bateman
Tuesday, 24
January 2023
Debate
11:15

Can Donald Trump regain his Twitter touch?

The former president was once the undisputed master of the medium
by Oliver Bateman
The poaster boy for Twitter. Credit: Getty

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.


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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.

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Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
14 days ago

“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.”
This is hitting the nail right on the head. For all that Trump did to move the political goalposts and show just how deep anti-elite, anti-global sentiments in middle America run, his actual policy was basically the border wall plus a lot of run of the mill Republican fare. Painting him as not smart/savvy enough to actually do what he promised is not actually a tough sell. DeSantis has to realize he could easily beat Trump at this point. He is the political darling of the populist movement and everyone knows it. He has the populist appeal but without Trump’s many and well known personal flaws. Populist Republicans will look for him to pick up the torch dropped by an election denying grievance nursing Trump. Establishment Republicans will try to corrupt him and quietly oppose the more populist parts of his agenda. Democrats will pull out all the stops to demonize him because they recognize the threat. He has the potential to dramatically shift American politics if he can capture the anti-elite vote without losing wide swaths of the electorate to offensive rhetoric. DeSantis is the only legitimate chance for another Reagan revolution type election victory that would propel the country out of the current polarized dynamic. I suspect the reason he has not announced a candidacy is because he, and other Republicans, want to extract some kind of promise from Trump not to run as a third party candidate when he inevitably loses the primary. Republicans don’t want to fire their golden bullet if Trump is going to get in the way.

Last edited 14 days ago by Steve Jolly
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Totally agree about Desantis. He is the future of populism. Trump has way way way too much baggage.

To be fair to Trump though, he did try to reduce govt regulations and had some success. He went hard at the EPA, one of the more opaque institutions that has throttled economic growth. He also did some good things in the Middle East.

John Smithson
John Smithson
13 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Ron DeSantis is a plodder with little charisma. That didn’t hurt him in the last election, but it will hurt him if he goes national.
And he’s 44 years old with a net worth of about $350,000. There’s nothing wrong with that, and a low net worth didn’t stop Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. But he lacks the entrepreneurial flare that a Donald Trump has.
I know a lot of people don’t like people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, but they know how to get things done. Especially Donald Trump. The man’s a genius at human relations. He knows how to push buttons to get things done. Ron DeSantis hasn’t shown any ability to do the same.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
14 days ago

Yesterdays man, done now.

Paul S
Paul S
14 days ago

‘De Sanctimonious’ was limp. Might be losing his edge.

R Wright
R Wright
14 days ago

Unfortunately the party is over. Trump is not only distinctly unbased. He is cringe.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
14 days ago

Trump remains the intellectual leader of the conservative movement – which is highly amusing for everyone else!
Diamond and Silk?!?!? It just gets bettter!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Who’s the intellectual leader of Dems. I won’t call them liberal and leftist is dubious. AOC maybe?

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
14 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

AOC is an intellectual giant compared to the fat clown hiding out at Mar a Lago!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

That was helpful. How many people in this site do you think are Trump fanboys? 100%, 50%, 20%? Because I’m not seeing a bunch of them.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
13 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Biden?

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
14 days ago

I see that Musk has reinstated Nick Fuentes as well as Trump and various other racists, neo nazis and general losers. No surprise there – these scum tend to run together…

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
14 days ago

Are we sure that he actually does Twitter himself? The man is virtually illiterate, with a vocabulary of a 9 year old?