Roughly a year ago, Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and most other social media apps, including YouTube and Facebook. In the wake, there’s been cries of tech censorship. Some of it is worth considering; other times—like when Richard Grenell said that the real attack on our democracy wasn’t people storming the Capitol but Trump’s ban—it’s pablum.
But an interesting note, tucked into a piece on the anniversary within the Wall Street Journal, is those within Trump’s orbit have appreciated the ban. “I don’t know a single person in Trump world who regrets that this has happened—not a single one,” a Trump adviser told the Wall Street Journal.
It’s pretty simple why: The more time Trump is on Twitter, the more journalists (also, let’s be honest, way too much on Twitter) report on the crazy things he says on Twitter. It makes him look bad. The numbers show this. At the time Trump was kicked off social media, which followed his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection, Trump’s approval rating hovered around 38.6 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average. Now 43.3 percent of Americans view him favorably, a bounce-back his advisers attribute to the social media ban. Take that causality with a grain of salt, but it’s not nothing.
The thing is it is not as if Trump has truly ceded power. The lack of a social media footprint has not dented Trump’s fundraising or his influence over the Republican Party, which still de facto controls as the presumptive frontrunner for the presidential nomination in 2024.
Trump’s main asset is a massive email list, which the Journal pegs at “about 50 million emails.” Trump has tapped that list repeatedly for donations. (In just the past two days, I’ve received no less than eight emails from Trump and his political action committee.)
The Trump team’s effort to flood the zone has paid off to the tune of “more than $56 million in online donations during the first half of 2021, and about as much in the second half,” according to sources who spoke to the Journal.
For Trump, the disgrace of being exiled from social media may have been what it is for any of us brave enough to leave Twitter: a blessing in disguise. He not only is more popular and reaching his followers on a massive scale, but the specter of Big Tech censorship can remain a useful political cudgel as he continues to raise money. (Already, in July, Trump sued major tech companies alleging censorship.)
And even though his short-lived attempt at starting a blog went up in flames, he still is planning to roll out his own social media network, Truth Social. The latest listing has its launch date as February 21, which in case you have forgotten, is Presidents Day. 2024 gets closer and closer.