[ Posted Monday, March 22nd, 2021 – 17:13 UTC ]

Joe Biden has been president for over two months now. And, so far, the most momentous development in his presidency has been the result of something which happened a few weeks before he even took the oath. Because, throughout his entire term in office so far, Biden has been able to completely and utterly ignore Donald Trump. His absence from Twitter and Facebook and all the rest of the social media universe has rendered Trump completely irrelevant to the day-to-day political conversation. Which has allowed Biden the elbow room he needs to get his job done. And, from what one Trump spokesman just said, it looks like this period of lying low is going to continue for at least two or three more months.

Trump has been holed up at his own resort in Florida for almost this entire period. His famous Trump-branded jet plane has sat at an airport (reportedly in need of major repairs) since Inauguration Day. He has made one major appearance, at the big conservative gathering CPAC, but other than that he has all but disappeared. He's even only called in to Fox News and the other ultraconservative cable network shows (his last remaining media refuge, really) a handful of times. His political stature has noticeably shrunk, which (for Biden and the rest of us) is a gigantic relief. Even though I (and others) had actually predicted this would happen before Biden was even sworn in, it's still rather surprising because the shift was so sudden.

Trump has reportedly been unable to really decide in what direction he should next move. A few options were on the table, such as starting his own cable network, but Trump appears to be uninterested (since it would be very expensive and take a lot of effort). Trump has gone through the motions of setting up his own political action committees and a webpage (where he insists on being addressed as "The 45th President of the United States," as if he'll forget if people don't constantly remind him or something), but that's about it, really. But now the news is that he has finally settled on a different option -- setting up his own social media platform. Call it "InstaTrump," for want of a better name. Up until now, Trump wasn't that interested in this project, for the same reason he wasn't interested in running a television network -- it would take a lot of money, and a lot of effort. But now apparently he's decided it is the way to go.

So what will InstaTrump be like? Well, the one thing that's guaranteed is that it'll allow Trump to say whatever he wants in whatever language he chooses, without any consequences at all. If InstaTrump is his, then they're never going to kick him off it, to state the obvious.

Trump had over 80 million followers on Twitter. Some of them may sign up for InstaTrump to hear his pronouncements once again... but not all of them will. A lot of Trump's followers were people who didn't support him, after all, but still wanted to keep track of what he was saying on a daily basis. People like journalists, for instance. Will they sign up with InstaTrump or just visit it every so often to see what Trump's been up to? The big unanswered question in all of this is whether Trump will be able to successfully drive a media cycle with one off-the-wall posting. Is the media going to pay that close attention to InstaTrump or will they largely ignore his ranting and raving in favor of reporting what is really going on in politics? The answer to that might determine how powerful -- or just how relevant -- Trump will really be for at least the next two years.

Of course, Trump does have one big thing still going for him. He pretty much owns the entire Republican Party now, lock, stock, and barrel. GOP politicians make what can only truly be called a pilgrimage to south Florida, to kiss Trump's ring (we're going to be polite here and use "ring," we should mention). Republican candidates for office are desperately seeking Trump's imprimatur in the form of endorsements and support. The one thing Trump has been obsessed about since Biden took office is wreaking vengeance and retribution on those in his party who have dared to contradict his Big Lie (or even just anything Trump has ever said). So those were the first endorsements Trump handed out -- to challengers of those he sees as insufficiently worshipful towards him. But there are plenty of other races where this does not apply, and the GOP candidates in all of them know that Trump's approval not only means votes, it also means an enormous boost in their fundraising abilities. So Trump's nod is still a very tangible and valuable thing to them.

Trump has also set the Republicans' agenda (such as it is). The party has not moved away from Trumpism one bit since he's faded from view, mostly because they really don't have many good political ideas about much of anything, anymore. So Trump's total focus (which could accurately be described as: "make the liberals cry") is now the sole plank in the Republican Platform -- other than, perhaps, "lower taxes on the one percent" (that one always seems to survive).

But how much longer will Republicans continue to genuflect before the altar of Trump? How much longer will the Republican base voter pay much attention to what Trump thinks? And, crucially, will Trump make another run for the presidency in 2024?

Nobody knows the answers to any of those, at this point in time. My guess is that Trump is going to continue stringing everyone along about his presidential bid until early 2023, or perhaps just after the 2022 midterms. So he'll be around for at least that long. But soon after the midterms, the party is going to all but demand that Trump make up his mind, because then all the rest of the GOP presidential hopefuls will want to know whether they should even bother running or not. Right now, Trump is not explicitly saying he'll run for a good reason -- campaign finance laws would constrain him if he made any sort of formal announcement or move towards setting up a campaign apparatus. Since he hasn't announced yet, the only rules he has to follow are those for political action committees, which are much more lax (and that's understating it). But the midterms will be the starting gun for the 2024 race, so he'll have to make up his mind pretty soon afterwards. This is conventional wisdom, I should point out, and it might prove to be wrong -- Trump could really jump in the race as late as he wanted (before all the primary election filing deadlines happen) and still make a big splash -- and possibly win. And Trump has always shown a complete disdain for what any other Republican politician thinks, so he might enjoy making them all wait as long as possible. Sooner or later, though, Trump will have to decide. If he runs, he'll instantly become the frontrunner. If he doesn't, his influence will begin to diminish considerably.

The best instructive case for Trump's likely political trajectory is Sarah Palin, of course. After John McCain lost in 2008, Sarah Palin was seemingly everywhere. She wrote a memoir that sold a million copies. She set up her own political action committee (SarahPAC). She briefly starred in her own television show (Sarah Palin's Alaska) and had a professional television studio set up in her own house so she could comment on Fox News. She rode the Tea Party wave in 2010, and her endorsement was probably the most sought-after in the whole Republican universe. The political media covered all this breathlessly. When the dust settled, her endorsement record wasn't all that impressive (she endorsed 64 candidates, and by one measure only a little over than half of them were successful), although she may have been instrumental in Nikki Haley winning the governor's race in South Carolina. At best, a mixed record, though.

The big question for Palin was whether she would run for president in 2012 or not. When she eventually decided not to (she strung everyone out until almost the end of 2011), her star began to fade rather fast. All of a sudden her endorsement didn't really mean that much, and the media stopped obsessing over her picks quite so much as a result. Pretty soon she was relegated to footnote status, where she truly belonged.

In 2015, there was another small wave of expectation about Palin possibly making a presidential run, but this ended abruptly when (irony of ironies) her TelePrompTer broke down at a conference, leaving Palin to ad lib a half-hour speech that can charitably be called "incoherent." And that's what conservatives were saying about it. From an article I wrote in January of 2015, here were some reactions, caught by the Washington Examiner conservative columnist Byron York:

York goes on to report some random crowd reactions, all from unnamed "social conservative activists."

"Long and disjointed."

"A weird speech. Terrible. Didn't make any sense."

"There was a certain coarseness to her that wasn't there before."

From Sam Clovis, "conservative Iowa college professor, radio commentator, and sometime political candidate":

"I know she is popular, but it is hard to take her seriously given that performance. Palin was a sad story Saturday. With every speech she gives, she gets worse and worse. If one were playing a political cliché drinking game, no one would have been sober after the first 15 minutes of an interminable ramble. It was really painful."

From a "well-connected Iowa Republican":

"Calling Gov. Palin's remarks bizarre and disjointed would be charitable. Her shelf-life, even with the most conservative voters in our party, seems to be near the end. In a day filled with strong performances from likely candidates ranging from Scott Walker to Ted Cruz, her remarks were a distraction."

From Craig Robinson, Iowa Republican blogger:

"It was a long and incoherent speech. At best, there were a few good one-liners."


Ouch. A final ironic footnote to this ironic story came from York himself:

York ended his column admitting that these weren't even the worst reactions he heard from the crowd after the speech, before offering up one final (and particularly cruel) twist of the knife.

I'm not comfortable sharing everything I heard about the speech -- it was that bad....

Palin made a guy like Trump look like a serious presidential candidate today. Incredible.


Is Trump heading for a similar "crowd realizes the emperor is stark naked" moment? Where conservatives come out of the fog and realize how incoherent he truly is? Well, at this point it is doubtful. After all, unlike Palin, Trump still commands the respect of the crowds of his followers.

Will his new InstaTrump platform succeed in moving Trump back into the political spotlight? This is also somewhat doubtful, although it could indeed happen. After all, a social media site is a tricky thing to manage. If InstaTrump is plagued with technical problems or security problems, people might not sign up in the numbers he is probably expecting. It will doubtlessly be a complete echo chamber where MAGA fans repeat back and forth the wonderfulness of Trump. But that's only a partial draw of social media. Will the MAGA crowd be satisfied if there aren't any liberal commenters to troll and get riled up? This is half the draw for them to be on Twitter, after all. Without such skirmishes, will InstaTrump still hold its appeal?

Of course, since Trump is adamant about being able to say what he wants without any sort of filter, InstaTrump could quickly devolve into a QAnon and other conspiracy platform, full of crazy nonsense, and (one assumes) reports of black helicopters arriving to take everyone's guns away. Or it could just as easily be overwhelmed with pornography (both from pornographers wanting to make a buck and from liberals wanting to trash Trump's platform).

Or Trump could just never get around to setting it up in the first place.

The only thing that's certain, at this point, is that even if he does follow through, InstaTrump is going to be smaller and less prominent than Twitter and Facebook. Even if tens of millions sign up for his service, his reach will still be limited to his most hardcore fans. He'll have created his own media bubble, to put it another way.

Nobody knows how or when Trump will fade away from the political scene for good. Although we've been in a welcome "dark" period from him (on social media and in almost all of the mainstream media), he could very well become more prominent if he does set up his own social media platform. He will still be seen as the kingmaker in the 2022 midterms. But his record for endorsements will likely be closely watched -- because if he backs a bunch of (as he would call them) losers, then the myth of Trump's political prowess might be damaged so much that Republican politicians may feel free to begin ignoring him.

Donald Trump's midterm endorsement record and his decision whether to run again in 2024 will be the big inflection points, that's my guess at any rate. For now, though, I'm just basking in the deafening silence.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


18 Comments on “InstaTrump!”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the main aspect that will impact upon trump's ability to run in 2024 is of course pie. what, no witty comeback? that's because you can't possibly argue against pie.


  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, you could try but, you would always fail.

  3. [3] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    "Even if tens of millions sign up for his service, his reach will still be limited to his most hardcore fans. He'll have created his own media bubble, to put it another way."

    And that gives me permission to say about yet another article about conservative crazies, right-wing nonsense, and irrelevant ex-presidents:

    "Who gives a f---?"

    OK, that wasn't fair. He/they could come back and institute a fascist crypto-state and destroy American democracy forever. And I'd have to give a f--- about that, if I wasn't in a prison camp by then.

    But in the mean time I'm reading news stories about an American government that does its homework and thinks about the American people not as marks but as citizens and taxpayers, and thinks about America not as a cesspit of division and private profit centers but as a real country with a common future shared by all its citizens.

    If I have to think about this ex-president and his agents and channelers I guess I will, but not until absolutely necessary. I feel so free right now, knowing they're silent and/or ineffective.

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    While I wouldn't mind it if The Donald enjoyed a similar Palin-esque trajectory to irrelevance, I don't think their differences will allow it. I mean, Palin never was even Vice-President and she never was any kind of GOP Kingmaker. Trump made President and still owns the Party.

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    trump = too dangerous to ignore.

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    But other than that, yeah sure.

    Ever since Trump raised $200M in the two months after the election, I've viewed Trump's words & deeds through one prism, alone: will [fill in the blank] make Trump more money?

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i don't think he's allowed to use campaign cash to pay off personal debts.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Not to worry, nypoet22. Trump will never again be President.

    I mean, Trump was so bad that Joe Biden got 80 million votes!

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Not, er, directly. But Trump will throw his own properties as much supplicant's business as he can for as long as he can. He won't "bow out of 2024" ever, period.

    Why should he?

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    So let's suppose I'm right and it's it's late 2023 and Trump still hasn't said one way or the other. On the line is not only the GOP Presidential nomination if Trump doesn't run, but a VP Sweepstakes if Trump does run. Since it won't be Mike Pence, for a Hawley or a Haley being picked for VP would be the next best thing. I wonder if Trump will pick whomever makes Trump the most money between now and then.

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I hear Mar-a-Lago is a nifty place to hold Republican fundraisers.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i know, i know. the campaign pays the property to host the fundraiser, which gets more money for the campaign, which uses the money to host more fundraisers, and so-on.

  13. [13] 
    TheStig wrote:

    No mention of the upcoming court cases? Both those concerning Trump’s tax troubles and the upcoming trials of His Insurrectionists. There is a cancer growing on any future Trump candidacy. Is there no Republican bench at all?

  14. [14] 
    TheStig wrote:

    According The Insider Trump’s jet is missing an engine and one wing is clipped. That is a fitting metaphor for the Ex-Prez. Even if the fare is dirt cheap, how many people are gonna want take a ride on this thing?

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @ts [fpc],

    perhaps i'm not a cat person, but here's someone who is:

    anything about the insignia on his chest look somehow... familiar?


  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    No Trump has no Twitter and no Facebook as an excuse for not dominating there news anymore. If Trump still wanted to be center stage I'd expect him to try a hell of a lot harder, amirite?

    Think about it. He's a massively fired old man in lousy shape. Melania is about to kill him in the divorce. Johnny law is after him and he's no damned use to anyone anymore. Trump is passing into irrelevance, this time NOT before our very eyes.

  17. [17] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Holy Just-a-Coincidence, Dude! You never see Chris Weigant and Cat-Man in the same room together, do ya?

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    AND the cat at the top of the page does look an awful lot like that tiger!

    ...could it be?

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