Republicans are fuming, but the timing of Donald Trump’s Twitter ban couldn’t have been better for the party.
Fractured in the aftermath of Trump’s defeat and a riot the president helped incite at the Capitol, the GOP found a unifying foil in the social media platform’s erasure of the president — elevating Big Tech‘s status in the culture wars from an annoying foe to archvillain.
For institutionalist Republicans weary of litigating Trump’s role in the insurrection, the ban — and the sudden silencing of Trump’s bullhorn — served as a diversion. And for the base of the party, it offered a rallying point for broader grievances about “cancel culture” and perceived attempts to censor conservative viewpoints. Less than 24 hours after the ban, Republicans were preparing to seize on the issue for the midterm elections and in 2024.
“A level of censorship that would make China proud,” James Dickey, the former chair of the Texas Republican Party, said Saturday, describing the ban as a “wake-up call for everyday Americans.”
Dickey predicted Republicans “100 percent” will campaign on the unrestrained power of social media and other technology firms in the midterms — and some GOP strategists were planning to capitalize on the controversy surrounding Twitter even sooner.
“I’ll be leading with it on a lot of my messaging, at least in my races, for the next few months,” said John Thomas, a Republican strategist who works on House campaigns across the country. “It shifts the news story — the narrative of the moment — and it refocuses it on a larger, more existential threat for the future of the country.”
On the influence of tech firms on speech, Thomas said, “Most Republicans are truly horrified.”
Republicans and Democrats alike have long expressed frustrations with Silicon Valley, with Big Tech standing in as a rare bipartisan target in the Trump era. But for Republicans, Twitter’s banning of Trump elevated the concern from the realm of policy to one of outrage, drawing a connection for conservatives to deeper complaints about cultural elites and perceived biases of the media, new and old alike.