How will Trump’s main messages affect the mid-terms?

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Since late April, citizens nostalgic for Donald Trump’s Twitter feed can get their fill on Truth Social, a platform launched in February by one of Trump’s companies. After an initial period of silence, the former president “truths” and “revelations” several times a day for his more than three million followers. (He had about eighty-nine million Twitter followers when the company permanently suspended his account after Jan. 6, lest it inspire further violence.) vernacular: “Our elections are rigged, inflation is CRAWLINGgas prices and food prices are ‘through the roof’, our Military ‘Leadership’ is Awakened, our Country is going HELLhe recently mused.

Truth Social is a typical Trump affair: opaque and unconvincing. Last fall, its parent company announced plans to merge with a “blank check” firm – a Wall Street concoction that can sell stock to the public with less scrutiny than other publicly traded companies. This agreement has not yet been concluded; meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether the announcement was on the rise. A recent regulatory filing indicates that Truth Social’s prospects hinge heavily on Trump’s appeal to his fans, but Trump himself seems equivocal about his project. According to the filing, once Trump posts something on Truth Social, he is “generally obligated” not to post the same message on other social media platforms – for six hours.

Trump may be keeping his options open as he is reportedly eager to run for president again in 2024, and his forced exile from Twitter and Facebook has clearly undermined his reach. His success on Twitter was born out of his ability to outrage or amuse a global audience of haters and cronies (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kim Jong Un, plus your Trumpist cousin across town). On Truth Social, he picks up old hits — Mueller’s “witch hunt,” weak Democrats — for homogeneous loyalists. So far, the vibe suggests punk rock on Broadway. Trump appears to be initiating a celebrity feud with Elon Musk, who decided to buy Twitter and said he would allow Trump to return. The former president insists he is not interested. “They want me back so badly,” he told a Wyoming crowd in late May. “And I will not go back, because we have the Truth!”

He was in Wyoming to rally MAGA voters to his revenge campaign against Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach him in the final days of his presidency. She is now vice chair of the House select committee investigating the January uprising, which will hold televised hearings starting this week. Wyoming’s Republican primary takes place on August 16 and Trump has endorsed Harriet Hageman, a Never Trumper alum who now says she doesn’t know who really won in 2020. Hageman has a big lead in the polls, but Cheney has a formidable campaign war chest. Earlier this year, Trump failed to persuade the Wyoming legislature to rewrite state rules that allow Democrats and independents to participate in the Republican primary, so cross-voting could help Cheney.

As the self-proclaimed “King of Apprentices,” Trump drew an eclectic parade of supplicants to Mar-a-Lago, where he performed a version of his role in “The Apprentice.” He called his record of support for candidates who won the primaries held in May “very significant and successful”, but the lopsided numbers he boasts about (“for the ‘cycle’, 100 wins, 6 losses”) include many nods to the lack of opposition or security Republican incumbents, whose victories were already assured. In hotly contested races, his interventions have had mixed results. His support helped JD Vance win the Ohio Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat. Its candidate Mehmet Oz was declared the winner of the Senate primary in Pennsylvania on Friday, where, also with Trump’s blessing, Doug Mastriano, a far-right Christian nationalist who paid for buses to ferry protesters to Washington on 6 January, won the Republican gubernatorial nomination. He said he had serious doubts about the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory; if Mastriano wins in November, he will wield considerable authority over his state’s election administration.

Yet Trump dramatically failed to get his men in position for state offices in Georgia, where he tried to oust Brian Kemp, the incumbent Republican governor, by backing David Perdue, a former US senator. (Trump’s Senate pick, Herschel Walker, won his primary.) In 2020, Kemp repeatedly resisted pressure from Trump to change the results of Georgia’s presidential election. Former Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the state last month to appear with Kemp, showing his estrangement from Trump, a rift that became irreparable when Pence refused to overturn Biden’s Electoral College victory . Kemp crushed Perdue by more than fifty percentage points. Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who ignored Trump’s plea in a phone call to ‘find’ enough votes to swing the state in his direction, also comfortably defeated a Trump-backed challenger. .

An optimistic reading is that Republican voters in Georgia were, to say the least, disinterested in Trump’s relentless obsession with his loss to President Biden. Yet according to a poll last year from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, well over half of Republican voters nationwide believe Trump’s big lie that Biden’s victory was rigged. Trump’s grip on Trumpism may be loosening a bit, but the malignity he has sown in American politics cannot be eradicated any time soon. His talking points about corrupt elections resonate daily in the right-wing media. Republican leaders and candidates embrace his isolationism and mobilization of the politics of white grievances. If Mastriano is elected, or if like-minded allies take control of the electoral machinery in other swing states, the stage could be set for another constitutional crisis around the results of the vote in 2024, whether or not Trump is the Republican presidential candidate.

Trump apparently has no qualms, as a former president, about questioning the legitimacy of national courts or the rule of law. “Our legal system is CORRUPT, our judges (and judges!) are very partisan, compromised, or just plain scared,” he recently wrote on Truth Social. Its new platform may look like a cynical way to make money – the regulatory filing warned investors of many potential dangers, citing the examples of Trump Plaza and Trump Castle, among other past failures. But Trump’s abuse of truth as a trademark pales in comparison to his continued vandalism in the public square. In November, his name will not be on the ballots, but voters will have to decide once again whether they approve of his grip on our faltering democracy. ♦

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