Suppose one day Trump announced he was suspending his account. Would his opponents rejoice that the “Oracles are dumb / No voice or hideous hum / Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving”? Or would they too go through something like the withdrawal symptoms his online fans would not do doubt experience upon being cut off from their regular supply of oddly memorable nicknames and midnight CSPAN recaps? What, if anything, would replace this mode of quasi-direct communication with the American public? A restored White House press briefing? How many thousands of articles that are now being written each week would have no sequels? What would public polling (which has given us oddly little information about voters’ attitudes toward this aspect of Trump’s presidency) reveal? Would some publisher seize upon the opportunity to publish The Collected Tweets of Donald Trump, 2009-2020, complete with a learned introduction, copious notes, and a detailed critical apparatus? The truth is all of these questions (with the exception of the last one, which is, sadly, an inevitability) I think these questions are difficult to answer.
Which is precisely why I think Trump should consider shutting down his account, at least for a short period of time — a month, say, or even a week. Since taking office he has never gone longer than 45 hours without tweeting. Having realized the extraordinary (and curiously I think more or less unguessed) power latent in the platform, it seems to me the next logical step should be exploring its other dimensions. Perhaps he would find stepping back behind the curtain as it were, revealing his opinions on a more limited basis, and in more rarefied contexts, would bring his speeches and other public appearances even more attention. He might discover millions of his supporters are not particularly interested in learning what he has to say about teenaged climate activists in the middle of the night. He might even find the business of governing slightly easier when it is not interrupted every two hours or so for another round of online invective.