Today in the Washington Post, I argue something that might seem counter-intuitive at first glance: that anyone who wants Donald Trump to lose in November should not want Twitter to ban him from their platform. While there is a strong moral case for doing so, “in purely political terms,” I write, “bumping Trump off Twitter would be a massive boost to his campaign.” Here’s why:
The unspoken assumption behind the debates over banning Trump from Twitter is that tweeting is good for his political prospects, and so silencing him would be bad for them. But the reality is just the reverse. Years of polling demonstrates that even Trump’s own supporters dislike his tweets. In February 2020, a Fox News poll found that just 19 percent of voters approved of Trump’s tweeting. Only 37 percent of Republicans approved of his Twitter usage, while 45 percent said they wished he’d be more cautious and 13 percent disapproved. In March 2017, two months into Trump’s term, the same pollsters found largely the same results. Multiple pollsters, from YouGov to the Wall Street Journal, have reported similar findings throughout Trump’s presidency. This comports with my own experiences as a journalist. Nearly every reporter I know who has interviewed voters has heard some variant of “I support the president’s policies, but I wish he would tweet less.”
…There’s a reason both Trump’s voters and advisers despise his tweets: They force the president’s backers to reckon with the reality of who they elected, and they expose him for the boorish and bigoted man-child he is. It’s a lot easier to persist in your support for Trump when you’re not constantly confronted with the reality of Trump. Every day on Twitter, the president embarrasses his own supporters with misspelled missives, conspiracy theories and petty threats, derailing the priorities of his administration and campaign, and forcing people to see him as he really is — not as his spin doctors would like him to be seen.
For the complete argument, read the whole thing here.
As I note in the piece, this is isn’t just about Trump. It’s also about how too many of us have “mistaken social media for reality and digital notoriety for genuine popularity,” even as only 22% of American adults are even on a site like Twitter in the first place.
Too many politicians and pundits have learned all the wrong lessons from Trump’s take-no-prisoners Twitter approach and tried to emulate it, thinking it’s something that helps him rather than hurts him. But as the polling shows, taking polarizing potshots at your opponents might excite your base, but it turns off everyone else, and drives up your unfavorable numbers when keeping a lower online profile would not have.
And if you don’t believe me, well, just ask Joe Biden’s poll numbers.
(Image via MaxPixel)
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