“A Massive Fraud [sic] of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Donald Trump wrote on his Twitter-copycat Truth Social page last weekend. He was upset that, in 2020, Twitter managers might have prevented a New York Post story from being posted on the platform. In his view, the platform’s overreach invalidates the 2020 election results, which must be reversed by any means necessary.
His claim that Twitter’s election bias necessitates the voiding of the Constitution is overkill even for Trump — and it suggests he is running out of whatever juice has powered his much more effective (if only slightly less unhinged) rhetoric in the past.
Just four months ago, I argued that Donald Trump still posed a serious threat. While it’s still too early to count him out, I admit I’m surprised that my article from July seems less accurate now that he has formally announced his reelection campaign. His anti-constitutional kvetching puts him at odds with American capitalists large and small, for whom the Constitution has worked exceedingly well and who form the core of Trump and the GOP’s support base. His willingness to repel that base in order to score points on Truth Social suggests that his solipsism may finally be obstructing his path to power.
Capitalists and right-wing activists have never shied away from tenuous interpretations of the Constitution. But, crucially, in doing so they universally present themselves as the Constitution’s most enthusiastic supporters, who by their interventions want only to undo liberal misinterpretations of the founding document and restore its original intent.
This legal and rhetorical strategy allows them to advance their preferred policies without calling into question the United States’ legal and historical framework, which, when compared to other countries, has proved remarkably stable, durable, and low-risk in allowing them to maintain their wealth and privileged position in society. They certainly don’t want Trump throwing a monkey wrench into it.
Much of Trump’s success came from his ability to sincerely express the Republican voter base’s disturbing id and his inability to focus long enough to successfully enact any of his darker fantasies, which might have destabilized the constitutional status quo to a degree unpalatable to the country’s elites. On some intuitive level, Trump seemed to understand this all along. “Make America Great Again” is just a catchier, more openly assertive version of constitutional originalism. But in calling for the “termination” of the Constitution, Trump exposed and undermined his own con.
Trump’s entire reelection campaign, announced in mid-November, has been curiously low energy. His focus is trained on increasingly obscure and inscrutable controversies, and his insecurity about hosting Kanye West for dinner, not to mention his mounting legal troubles, have come at the expense of traditional campaign activities such as raising money, hiring staff, or making any effort at all to dissuade rivals or persuade voters.
Maybe at this point Trump is just running because he thinks it will help him avoid prosecution. Maybe he doesn’t know what to do now that he doesn’t shock us anymore. Or maybe his heart just isn’t in it. It certainly seems like if he has to choose, he’d rather prove himself right than win back power.