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Kamala’s Awful Idea

You can't cancel the presidency.
October 2, 2019
Kamala’s Awful Idea
Just . . . no. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Let’s stipulate that Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is a dumpster fire of outrage and that a case could easily be made that he routinely violates what Twitter quaintly calls its “community standards.”

Now, Kamala Harris is seizing on Trump’s latest barbarity to call on Twitter to yank the president’s account. “If you look at what he’s been tweeting today directed at the whistleblower,” she said, “I frankly think that based on this and all we’ve seen before, including attacking members of Congress, that his Twitter account should be suspended.”

This effusion of her ideological id will undoubtedly win her plaudits among the base and a surge of donations. But it’s a terrible idea, not least for the gift it would be to Trump.

The Orange God King would like nothing better than to play the victim; to stand before his MAGA masses with the stigmata of censorship. If Twitter acquiesced to Harris’s demand it would confirm every suspicion in Trump’s base about the intolerance of the left and the bias of the social media companies.

And, of course, it wouldn’t shut him up. Because nothing can.

Suspending him from Twitter would also be a very bad look for the opposition. To be sure Trump devoutly deserves to be cancelled, but cancel culture seems a bad fit for presidential politics and banning the president of the United States does not seem like a particularly effective way of restoring democratic “norms.”

Of course, no one has a First Amendment right to be on Twitter (because is it a private company). But free speech is still a value worth defending and a Twitter ban would (however improbably) hand the moral high ground to Trump and his supporters.

Democrats do not want to wage their 2020 campaign under the banner of “Shut Up.”

The attack on his account, he would rail, was not about him, but about the desire of the left to silence all of you out there. This is about you, would be a staple of every campaign rally. If they can try to gag the president of the United States, what are they capable of doing to the run–of-the-mill deplorable schmo who posts cat videos on Instagram?

Don’t even get me started on the virtue-signaling orgy all of this would set off until Twitter surrendered, with displays of groveling contrition.

Writing in Commentary Christine Rosen explains how the whole idea would backfire:

If there is any benefit at all to Trump’s rage-a-holic Twitter performances, it is their transparency. Trump’s Twitter feed is the agar in the petri dish that is his presidency. Trump’s tweets give us a glimpse of his id (which is not a happy place). As David French has argued at National Review, “One of the reasons why the Ukraine scandal is starting to have legs is that it demonstrates that the Trump you see on Twitter is not some virtual persona distinct from the man himself; they are one and the same.” It will serve as a useful barometer of his mood as impeachment efforts progress.

Banning Trump from Twitter would only fuel his already unhealthy persecution complex and offer yet another victimization narrative for him to exploit. Like impeachment, it would become an effective way to fundraise (via Facebook ads) for his reelection campaign.

Harris presumably knows all of this, so her call for Trump’s suspension comes off as flailing . . . and more than a bit desperate.

Exit take: Democrats really should avoid the temptation to engage in a competition of performative wokeness, even when it applies to Trump. Unfortunately, if recent events are any indication, they might not be able to help themselves.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.