That called for thoroughly inhabiting the former president’s world. When Trump tweeted, Gertz would get instantaneous alerts. “I would be with other people and I’d instantly pull out my phone,” Gertz told me. “They would shrug and sigh and say, ‘What did he do this time?’” Then Gertz would have to scrounge through Fox broadcasts to see what Trump might have been watching that set him off. “That became the day-to-day routine,” Gertz said. “He was watching Fox News while sitting in front of the television and tweeting about it. And I was watching Fox News while sitting in front of the television and tweeting about him tweeting about it.”
Is there a hole in your life now? I asked. An emptiness with Trump gone? “No,” he said. “It’s great. I wake up. I go out for a walk with my family. I don’t need to worry that the president is going to tweet something and I need to rush back to my house.”
David A. Graham: This is the cost of a failed impeachment
Trump will be back, of course. This week, the Senate will hold an impeachment trial over his role in the Capitol insurrection. Even if he doesn’t speak publicly, he’ll be thrust back into the national spotlight. What’s more, Trumpism seems to be metastasizing. A band of congressional acolytes is the newest avatar for the conspiracism and grievance that fueled Trump’s movement. “Yes, he’s not on Twitter and that makes a difference,” Sarah Longwell, the founder of the Republican Accountability Project and an ardent Trump critic, told me. “But he has all these mini-me’s—the craziness is still there.”
Trump’s successor likely isn’t sorry to see him sidelined. At a news briefing last week, Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, got a question about whether the work goes more smoothly when Trump stays mute. “This may be hard to believe: We don’t spend a lot of time talking about or thinking about President Trump here—former President Trump, to be very clear,” Psaki replied.
Former president. The idea still takes some getting used to. Len Fonte, a playwright and theater critic in the Syracuse, New York, area, described Trump as “an addiction even for those of us who can’t stand him.” In the mornings, Fonte said, he would “rush to the television to hear [MSNBC’s] Joe Scarborough screaming about him. I had to start weaning myself away from all that.” For a respite, he would turn to The Great British Baking Show, just so he could focus on something more benign. (A disclaimer: My wife has me watching the same show and an episode featuring a tart-making competition was indeed a mind-clearing diversion.)
For those whose work routine centered around Trump, the void he’s left is even more jarring. Mike Elgan, a tech writer, estimates that he’s sent thousands of tweets over the years in response to Trump’s feed. One goal was to send them out quickly—within seconds of Trump tweeting—in the hope that Trump supporters would read them and be swayed by whatever counterargument he was offering.