Democrats hate him, but Elon Musk could be their savior


Elon Musk took over Twitter on Friday, adding to Democrats’ growing misery ahead of the midterm elections, not least because he made it clear he would likely allow Donald Trump to return to the platform. . A person familiar with the situation told Bloomberg News that Musk “intends to remove permanent user bans because he doesn’t believe in lifetime bans.” Lest there be any doubt, the source explicitly named Trump, who later posted on Truth Social that he was “very happy that Twitter is now in good hands.”

In recent months, Democrats have agonized as the effect of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, who had initially excited Democratic voters and put the House of Representatives on the line, waned. Their prospect of retaining the House has all but vanished, and polls suggest the Senate may be slipping away from them as well.

For a certain breed of online Democrat, Musk’s takeover of Twitter has compounded that frustration. Over the past few months, Musk has proven himself to be a full-fledged conservative provocateur, stuffed with rouge and tweeting memes, the kind of polarizing character who distracts liberal “blue checks”. The MAGA mob’s rapturous embrace of their new troll lord has only deepened the feeling among liberals that a great injustice is being perpetrated against them. As John Herrman notes in an insightful New York magazine article: “Some of the loudest voices applauding Musk’s bid to buy Twitter – including co-investors and new partisan allies – were enthusiastic by the prospect of staff purges and mass ownership, both literal and figurative, of blue checks.” Freeing Trump into the Twitter sphere would be the crowning indignity — the thing that could really bring libs to tears.

From the perspective of maintaining one’s sanity and mental well-being, the answer is probably yes. Trump’s absence from Twitter has deprived him of the ability to dominate cable news coverage and diminished his exhausting importance in most people’s daily lives. (He had 90 million followers on Twitter, compared to 4.4 million on Truth Social, which also has much lower traffic.) All of that will change if Musk reinstates him.

But from the perspective of what’s politically best for Democrats, stifling the castor oil of Trump’s comeback on Twitter may be just what they need to bounce back from what’s shaping up to be Election Day. difficult and start preparing for 2024.

The last few years have clarified that, however much they hate him, Trump is the great Democratic unifier. He’s an uplifting figure who’s likely a net positive for Democrats in any election, even if many Republicans revere him the way some techies still revere Musk.

In January, I wrote about what it would take for Democrats to defy historical trends and retain the House. Typically, the party that controls the White House loses congressional seats — often dozens of them — in the first half of the year after a new president is elected. Everyone agreed that it would take something big. And while a Twitter takeover was not yet a gleam in Elon Musk’s eye, Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist, presciently identified Trump’s return to Twitter as the kind of event. black swan that could overwhelm Democratic fortunes because there could be “no greater midterm project.” joker than letting the tiger out of its cage.

It’s too late for a Trump resurrection to help Democrats on Nov. 8. But Donovan remains convinced that the same dynamic still holds true and could boost Joe Biden — or whoever is the Democratic nominee — two years from now. “What is the best thing that has happened to Republicans in the last 18 months? Donovan asked, when I spoke to him on Friday. “It’s obviously the absence of Donald Trump from the main stage.”

Just as the ability to avoid Trump’s penchant for outrage and scandal has helped Republican candidates this election season, his absence has robbed Democrats of what was a powerful motivator in 2018 and 2020. In their new book, “The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy,” a team of political scientists looked at data from a campaign full of survey data to see what issues really matter to Democratic voters — what this is known in academic circles as a “revealed preference.” The idea is that while voters may support a long list of positions, some are more important than others in influencing their vote choice.

What political scientists found was that in addition to ending the kidnapping of children from immigrant mothers, impeachment of Trump was the biggest priority in 2020 among Democrats and people who leaned towards the Democratic Party. . It is no coincidence that Joe Biden won 81 million votes.

What a mercurial figure like Musk will end up doing with Twitter and its biggest outcast is anybody’s guess. Not too long ago, Musk looked like he was doing everything humanly possible to try and get out of the deal. Now he is “Chief Twit” and hero of the MAGA masses.

If Musk goes through with what he hinted at and reinstates Trump, the right will celebrate the act as one of the greatest liberal “landlords” of all time. It will add enormously to the Democrats’ discontent if the Republicans win back Congress. But that may ultimately have nothing to do with the political effect that Musk and his supporters seem to desire. “It’s going to hurt, it’s going to get on a lot of nerves on the Democratic side if Trump comes back,” Donovan says. “But anyone who takes a longer-term view should see that it’s to their benefit to have Trump there being himself.”

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

Obama is more valuable as an expert than a politician: Matt Yglesias

The email every campaign sends right now: Ramesh Ponnuru

National and local elections are now crucial: Jonathan Bernstein

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Joshua Green is national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek and author of “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the President.”

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