Donald Trump gives the crowd during the evening event on the fourth day of … [+]
Can President Trump Tweet? Post on Facebook? No What about Snapchat, YouTube, or Twitch? No, no – and no.
Yes, the president was a persona non grata on social media after almost every major platform banned him after the January 6 riot, an event that Trump fueled in part through his digital presence. There was a chance he’d be back on Facebook soon. But on Wednesday the company’s board of directors announced its decision on Facebook’s expulsion of the president, making a return – and certainly an immediate return – unlikely.
The Republicans wasted no time deciphering the board’s verdict. Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn described it as “extremely disappointing,” while California Minority Chairman Kevin McCarthy said Facebook was “more interested in acting like a Democratic super-PAC than a platform for free speech and open debates. “
During the time Trump was serving as president and running two presidential campaigns, his identity was inextricably linked to social media. He had over 100 million followers on Facebook and Twitter alone and enjoyed unrestricted access to these and other websites: an opportunity to speak directly to his supporters. His removal was a severe blow that silenced him and denied him a key tool that his Democratic – and GOP – rivals would have in future political competitions. But if Trump played the situation wisely, it wouldn’t have to be a bad thing, say Republican strategists and seasoned GOP activists.
As much as Trump enjoyed and expertly used social media, many people outside of his die-hard base had grown weary of his online personality. And not just the left: moderate and always decisive swing voters.
When Sarah Longwell, a Republican critic of the president and founder of Longwell Partners, sat down for focus groups ahead of 2020 content, she kept hearing something. “His Twitter habit for marginal voters was a net negative. It was the kind of thing they turned off, the kind of thing that appeared on the President, ”says Sarah Longwell, founder of Longwell Parnters. As she sat down to lead focus groups in the run-up to the 2020 race, she kept hearing: “With swing voters, especially women, one of the things I heard all along about why they thought about me was me didn’t vote for Trump – even though they didn’t like Joe Biden. ”
The suggestion to stay away from social media goes against the rationale of political campaigning since Obama against McCain: be on social media and use it to get your unfiltered message across – something Trump deftly did before 2016. “It’s a critical part of being able to have the conversation. And Donald Trump is probably one of the main reasons candidates are doing this from now on, ”said GOP strategist Liam Donovan, who helped Republicans recapture Congress during the Obama years. “I think he’s one of the first people to really grab that cloak and use a straight megaphone to bypass any type of media gatekeeper.”
Deliberately ignoring social media would be unconventional. But if Trump accepted the bans, not only would he curtail tendencies that put voters off, but he would also get the main talk of the campaign path if it were to run again in 2024. There he once marketed himself on a platform of complaints against the elites in Washington he was able to concentrate again on a similar feeling of anti-power, which was directed more against Silicon Valley than against the swamp.
“The politics of complaint and prohibition and fighting with the media is fully in line with Trump’s style. It used to be not on Twitter and Facebook – it was on CNN, ”says Alex Vogel, president of the Vogel Group and former chief attorney for the majority leader of the Republican Senate, Bill Frist. For the record, Vogel says he wouldn’t advise Trump to go that route, but he sees how it could appeal to the former president.
“The ban could be a central part of the narrative: the us-versus-you narrative,” says Vogel. “That the common person was locked out. Look, these elites decide what to see and what to see because they are afraid of me, my message, my politics. And the only way for them to stop this is to literally make it so that we cannot communicate with you. ‘“