Musk should give him his account back if only to bring Twitter into line with American civics more broadly. Sixteen months ago a plot to overturn a national election was organized out of the White House, with the enthusiastic support of various members of Congress, and to this day the only people who have paid a price for it are the foot soldiers who breached the Capitol. The ringleader of the operation is the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination again in 2024, leading Ron DeSantis in some polls by 40 points.
It’s adorable that Twitter tried to pretend we don’t live in a banana republic by insisting on punishing Trump in the first place, but we can all drop the pretense now. Why should he be deprived of the meager privilege of participating in “the town square” just because he tried to stage a coup after the electorate preferred a different candidate?
Some of the Senate Republicans who want Trump’s account reinstated are predictable, but not all. Imagine Mitch McConnell’s face while reading this piece.
“Although I obviously don’t agree with a lot of President Trump’s tweets, I do think he should have his account back. To me, it’s ironic that we allow Russian government sites to be on Twitter but we don’t allow President Trump,” [Susan] Collins told HuffPost on Tuesday, questioning what she called “uneven” standards the social media company applied to boot Trump from the platform…
“If Iranian leaders can be on and the Russians are gonna be, I think that President Trump should be,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Idaho) said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Musk should “absolutely” let Trump return, calling the purchase “the most important development for free speech in decades.”…
One Republican organization didn’t hesitate to jump on the possibility of Trump returning to Twitter: the National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRCC sent out a fundraising petition to its members on Tuesday “demanding” that Musk reinstate Trump.
It’s true that there are loads of government (and non-government) figures on Twitter more worthy of losing their posting rights than Trump, but that’s not an argument for bringing him back. It’s an argument for kicking them off. One Twitter pal suggested an elegant policy change for Musk as he takes over: Any government that doesn’t respect free speech in its own laws should be denied the use of Twitter to propagandize. If it’s now illegal in Russia to criticize the “special military operation” then the accounts of Russian agencies and officers should be incinerated with dispatch.
I doubt Musk will institute that fair and sensible policy, though. And we all know why.
No one’s surprised to find Ted Cruz in favor of giving Trump his account back, as Cruz will say anything to protect his position among righty populists. Finding Collins and the NRCC in favor is more of a surprise. You’d expect them to consider foremost what’s best for the party, not for Trump. And the consensus among Washington Republicans is that it’s best for the party if Musk keeps him gagged:
On Monday night, in a series of calls and texts with several top GOP insiders, every single one of them told us that they hoped the former president stays the hell away from Twitter, lest he sink their chances at flipping the House and Senate. Some of his allies even think that a return to his old Twitter habits could damage his own brand ahead of a possible third presidential bid in 2024.
“If I’m a Democrat, I’d pray that Elon Musk puts Trump right back on Twitter,” said one House GOP leadership aide, who asked not to be named to speak candidly. “I don’t think it costs Republicans the House, but it certainly will elevate Trump’s opinions — and is going to put Republican candidates and members back having to answer for that.”
The person added: “It’s enough to create headaches — and it’s enough to probably cost us a couple seats.”
Except for a few odd bipartisan measures here and there, like the infrastructure bill, Republicans have been absent from political coverage for the past 15 months. And it’s worked out smashingly for them, with the party poised for its biggest House gains this fall in more than a decade. The Senate GOP won’t even issue a policy agenda, so keen are they to lie low through November and leave President Inflation all alone in the spotlight. In Mitch McConnell’s dream scenario, Republicans don’t exist in the minds of American voters right now. The only parties on the ballot this fall are the Democrats and a faceless, leaderless cohort of Not Democrats. Given how the country has fared over the past year, the choice between those two is clear.
But Elon Musk could give the Not Democrats back their face in an instant.
And if he does, even pro-Trump Republicans expect that Trump would quickly renege on his pledge not to use Twitter. One of his advisors told WaPo, “Truth Social is working out its kinks, they are onboarding people … but he loved his Twitter. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Derek Thompson wondered how two egos as outsized as Trump and Musk would navigate a new arrangement in which they’re potentially competitors, rivals, or allies — and maybe all at once. “[W]hat if Donald Trump is invited back to Twitter but refuses to return? Does that make Musk and Trump enemies?” he asks. “What if conservatives returning to Twitter implode the value of Trump’s media SPAC? Does a Musk-Trump rivalry suddenly code the anti-woke Musk as a liberal? If Trump sees Musk’s Twitter as a threat to his SPAC, will he lead conservatives against Musk’s entire corporate portfolio? Would that reduce demand for electric vehicles among conservatives?”
Musk hasn’t mentioned Trump yet but this new statement of principles points towards permissiveness towards trolls, even ones who come thisclose to inciting a riot:
By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law.
I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.
If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.
Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2022
“Videos of beheadings, videos of torturing minorities and violent pornography are all protected forms of speech under First Amendment law. Doesn’t mean they belong on every platform,” replied one critic. I don’t know what Musk means either that “going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.” There’s a lot of protected speech, starting with flag-burning, that Americans would happily ban if the First Amendment didn’t stop them. “Just 30% of Americans believe spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation is a legitimate expression of First Amendment rights,” the Knight Foundation reported in January. A Cato survey conducted in 2017 found that majorities of Democrats, African-Americans, and Latinos support banning “hate speech” while a majority of Republicans support *stripping flag-burners of their citizenship.* Musk can turn Twitter into 4Chan if he likes but there’ll be plenty of churn in the user base if he does.