The Color of Musk

 


Photo by Daniel Oberhaus | Flickr

Michael just bought his second Tesla. He was drawn by sleek design, concern for the environment, and respect for the company’s founder. Until recently, he hadn’t thought of Elon Musk in political terms. Instead, he’d admired him for his innovation and critical thinking.

But like everything else around us, Musk just became subject to our partisan divide. His interest in acquiring Twitter now being heralded on the Right and greeted with trepidation on the Left. 

In a TED talk this week, he seemed to imply this move involved defending free speech:

“Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? And if that is the case, then we have free speech. And it is damn annoying when someone you don’t like says something you don’t like. But that is the sign of a healthy, functioning free speech situation.”

On Fox News he was portrayed as a burr in the saddle of Silicon Valley progressives.

But there was this tweet from Max Boot of The Washington Post:

“I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter. He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”

And we bet these competing narratives become self-fulfilling. In other words, when partisans hear that their polarized outlets are welcoming Musk’s initiative (or resistant to it) they will fall in line. 

 

But it’s too soon to cast Musk in red or blue colors. What do we really know about his politics?

In May 2014, this is how he described his political ideology to The Atlantic:

“I’m sort of moderate — half Republican, half Democrat, if you will. I’m sort of in the middle. I guess I’m sort of socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”

Then in July 2018, he tweeted that he’s “Not a conservative. Am registered independent & politically moderate. Doesn’t mean I’m moderate about all issues. Humanitarian issues are extremely important to me.”

Shortly before the 2016 election, Musk told CNBC this about then-candidate Donald Trump:

“I feel a bit stronger that he is not the right guy. He doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.”

In June 2017, he quit two of President Trump’s business advisory councils after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

A year later, he proclaimed in a tweet:

He’s also not a guy donating only to Democrats or Republicans.

Since 2002, he’s given a total of more than a million dollars to politicians, parties and PACs on both sides of the aisle.

Among the Democratic recipients of Elon Musk’s contributions:

  • $1,000 to Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2010

  • $2,500 to Barack Obama in 2011

  • $5,300 to Rahm Emanuel in 2013

  • $2,300 to Hillary Clinton in 2016

  • $5,000 to Gavin Newsom in 2018

For Republicans, he donated:

  • $2,000 to George W. Bush in 2002

  • $2,500 to Marco Rubio in 2011

  • $5,200 to Lindsey Graham in 2013

  • $2,600 to Kevin McCarthy in 2014

  • $2,800 to Joni Ernst in 2020

His donations to Democrats and Republicans are almost exactly even.

Here’s what he said last September to Kara Swisher: 

“Well, I think you know if there were some sort of moderate, centrist president, you know, I think that would help. …I think most people want a president who is a confident executive, not too far Left, not too far Right, most people would prefer that.”

The guy is complex! How can anyone object to the way he handled a potential Saudi impediment?

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al Saud is a billionaire who is also one of Twitter’s largest shareholders. When Musk announced his $41 billion all-cash bid for the company, the prince tweeted this:

Musk’s reply? This:

Well, we know the kingdom’s disregard for free speech. US intelligence believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman personally approved the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Michael’s 2022 Tesla Model “Y” came in 5 color choices: pearl white, midnight silver, deep blue, solid black, and red.

Time for Tesla to add the founder’s color… purple!


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