Signs and Portents: Elon Musk’s Growing Political Maturity

A few weeks ago, Exxon announced that it was banning the display of Pride and BLM flags at its headquarters in Houston. There was a ripple of unhappiness, but nothing was burned down, the media attention was muted, and the world went about its business as before. 

Across the country, school board elections are tossing out woke ideologues and partisans of critical race theory and replacing what amounts to gay pornography in the curriculum with more wholesome fare. The Biden Administration keeps running into roadblocks, most recently a judicial order halting its efforts to rescind Title 42, a Trump-era emergency order that turned away would-be immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. A few days ago, Biden’s absurd Disinformation Governance Board was shuttered and its pathetic director, Nina Jankowicz, sucked back into the memory hole whence she came. 

On Friday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robbie Mook, testified that, what do you know, his former boss knew all about and in fact approved the spurious efforts to frame Donald Trump as a Russian asset, contrary to what she and her handlers have said ever since before Hunter Biden took his laptop to be repaired. 

Then there is Elon Musk. I have long been a fan of this Rocket Man, notwithstanding his mantras about “sustainable transport” and other sops from the green agenda. Hitherto, my enthusiasm was for his technological prowess, his hard work, and his amazing products. Now I find myself applauding his political savvy and efforts on behalf of free speech. Princeton University and other one-party bastions of conformity and self-congratulation should ponder Musk’s central observation about free speech: “When it’s someone you don’t like saying something you don’t like, that’s when it actually matters.”

The world was stunned last month when Musk first took a 9.2 percent share in Twitter and then announced that he intended to buy the company outright. The anguished skirling of the Twitterati, alarmed that a platform advertised as promoting free expression might be forced to live up to its mission statement, was music to the ears of the unwoke who could hear the clock ticking on this enemy of consecutive thought and political maturity. 

We haven’t heard the last of them. Just as Musk predicted, his promise to restore free speech to Twitter—even, dear God in heaven, to the extent of welcoming back Donald Trump to the platform—sent them right around the bend. And Musk compounded his tort by admitting that he did not believe Twitter’s declaration that “5 percent or less” of its apparent users were bots or spam. 

And the hits just keep on coming. Not only is Musk looking into the question of Twitter’s candor. He is also likely to decrease his offering price when he figures out just how many users are fake. If, he said in a recent interview, you were contemplating buying a house and the owner told you 5 percent of its structure had termites, that would be one thing. But if it turned out that 80 or 90 percent of the structure were infested, that would be something else entirely. 

How much worse can it get for the entrenched forces of conformity? A lot worse. On top of everything else, Musk has just announced that he had moved from being a moderate Democrat to being a moderate Republican. “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God: did you hear that, Mabel?”

“I’ve just switched from moderate D to moderate R,” he tweeted, “as I think many independent voters have done.” Salt-in-the-wound time: “We will know the magnitude of this trend in November. I think it’s big.” Me too. 

Or perhaps I should say #MeToo. Musk predicted that attacks against him would escalate once his changed political feelings were made public. “In the past I voted Democrat,” he wrote on May 18, “because they were (mostly) the kindness party. But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican. Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold.” I liked that this was followed by a popcorn emoji. And indeed the dirty tricks are flowing in from all sides, the latest being an allegation by a flight attendant that Musk acted inappropriately back in 2016. The charge will not go anywhere—Musk is robust in fighting false charges—but perhaps it will fulfill one longstanding wish. “If there’s ever a scandal about me,” he tweeted in March 2021, “*please* call it Elongate.” Let’s do it!

The story of Elon Musk’s growing political maturity is not a one-off or an individual data point. It is part of a process, a gathering sea change. What we are seeing is not so much a pendulum swinging back from the extremism of identity politics as the eruption throughout society of contrary fires. Elon Musk’s coming of age is a sign or portent of a larger shift in the sensibility of our time. The shift won’t happen all at once, and there will be hold-outs and reversals, but what we are witnessing is a sort of spiritual reveille, an awakening from wokeness. The extent of that awakening will not, as Musk said, be evident until the November election. Indeed, I predict that it won’t be fully evident until the 2024 election when (further prediction) Donald Trump wins yet again, this time beyond the margin of fraud and dissimulation. Let’s see if I am right.

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: Elon Musk speaks at the Tesla Giga Texas manufacturing "Cyber Rodeo" grand opening party on April 7, 2022 in Austin, Texas. CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

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