WASHINGTON — The progressives — once called liberals — have a new target to hate. He is Elon Musk. By the way, the progressives have become very complacent about their targets for hatred. They hate Musk today, but it cannot be only because he is the richest man in the world. There is a tremendous competition to be the richest man in the world, and what I would have thought makes this competition all the more ferocious is that most of the competitors are Yanks. From week to week or month to month, billionaires such as Jeff Bezos (of Amazon), Bill Gates (of Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (of Meta platforms) are competing with Musk to be the richest man on the planet. It all depends on the stock market at any point in time.
Right now, it is Mr. Musk. He is rumored to be worth between $171 billion and $300 billion, depending on the value of his holdings at any one time, and it has the progressives furious. But why do they not get exercised over the other billionaires? As I say, it seems that the progressives have become complacent about so many Americans competing to be the richest man on the planet. Back in the good old days, I should think that having so many American billionaires competing to be the richest man in the world would have do-gooders such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders up in arms. You would think these left-wing senators would be on the Senate floor night and day shouting for confiscatory taxation or, better yet, a simple wealth tax.
Possibly it would become malum prohibitum to earn more than a reasonable sum, say, $500,000 annually. I could see Bezos settling for $500,000 annually and Zuckerberg, too.
Actually, Musk has been on thin ice with progressives for years. Why would the do-gooders allow him to start up the hugely successful automobile company, Tesla? Well, yes, Tesla is a battery-powered vehicle, so Elon cannot be all bad. Moreover, it was all good news when his engineers announced that they were experimenting with putting robots behind the wheel of a Tesla rather than humans. There was also some talk of putting a speed governor on each car. But it has not gone beyond the talking stage, and Teslas whiz past me on I-95 all the time. No one seems to care. They even pass me in the Safeway parking lot.
Then there was Musk’s invention of SpaceX. The progressives supposedly applauded Musk’s futuristic talk about SpaceX, but the truth is he is adding tremendously to his carbon footprint in outer space, and his guff about colonizing Mars is a lot of hooey. As for his ownership of Neuralink, the neurotechnology company, already the Biden administration is investigating Neuralink’s treatment of monkeys and rats and possibly goldfish.
Yet what is unforgivable is his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. Musk’s promise to keep Twitter “politically neutral” has fooled no one in the leftist camp. The ink was hardly dry on his contracts when he fired more than half his employees. He claims, “Twitter needs to be politically neutral.” Yet it already was politically neutral, or as politically neutral as the leftists can imagine. The fact is that the left has no conception of political neutrality. Anywhere one might go looking for political neutrality, one will find political bias, and the bias is usually from the left. The erstwhile liberals — now progressives or, more properly, now leftists — are all bigots. I would trust a centrist such as Elon Musk any day before I would trust a leftist. Last week’s dump of Twitter documents accumulated before Musk took the company over proves it.
My guess is that Musk is as familiar with liberal bigotry as I am. He sees Twitter for the business opportunity that it is. A truly open forum will attract conservatives, moderates, independents and that rare creature once called a liberal. I am uncertain if the true liberal is still around. Yet if he is still around, he might help Musk make his politically neutral Twitter work, and if he does, he might make Musk another few billion dollars. Keep your eye on Musk. He has shown wise investors that he is the guy to watch.
Glory to Ukraine!
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.