Elon Musk is an unconventional CEO.
The chief executive of Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report recently decided that meddling in political affairs was no longer taboo. The billionaire has thus redefined the CEO's role just as governments -- think Florida, with Disney (DIS) - Get The Walt Disney Company Report and the "Don't Say Gay" bill -- are trying to force companies to remain neutral on social issues and concern themselves mainly with their products and services.
Musk's political offensive is symbolized by the $44 billion bid he launched on April 14 to acquire Twitter. Ten days earlier he'd disclosed a 9.2% stake in the microblogging website.
For the tech tycoon, Twitter (TWTR) - Get Twitter Inc. Report is the de facto Times Square of our time. By taking control, Musk says, he hopes to restore free speech to the site, something he says the platform's management has improperly restricted.
He promised to reinstate to the site former President Donald Trump, who'd been banned from the social network after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, on Capitol Hill.
In the Name of Free Speech
The billionaire has declared that any remark will be admitted on the site, up to the limits of the law of the country in which the remark was made.
This decision has provoked many in the Democratic Party as well as prominent personalities like Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report. These critics say that if this is going to be Twitter's benchmark under Musk, the site will enable hate speech, bullying and misinformation.
These criticisms had zero effect on Musk, who reiterated that Twitter will be open to everyone. The billionaire went further by saying that he would now vote Republican in the face of what he called the radicalization of the Democratic Party.
He recently repeated that he'd been a Democrat, having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but that the intolerance of the Democratic Party's progressive wing had pushed him first toward the center and then into the arms of the Republicans.
"In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party, " the world's richest man said recently. "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 … 🍿"
Musk: Wave of Moderates Will Back Republicans
Jon Favreau, Barack Obama's ex-speechwriting director, pointed out to Musk that he's closer to Democrats on environmental issues than Republicans are and that Tesla survived thanks to the efforts of a Democratic Party administration.
Musk predicts that a large number of moderate Democratic Party voters or simply moderate voters will vote Republican in the midterm elections in November.
"I know you’re mad that the guy who was part of a White House that made Tesla possible isn’t giving Tesla enough love now, but supporting climate-denying MAGA politicians who want to overturn elections isn't the answer," Favreau told Musk. "You're much closer to Dems on climate and I hope democracy."
"I’ve just switched from moderate D to moderate R, as I think many independent voters have done," the mogul responded on May 20. "We will know the magnitude of this trend in November. I think it’s big."
President Joe Biden's approval ratings and worries about the economy are currently causing Democrats to fear potential losses in the 2022 midterm elections. Some Democratic Party leaders are preparing for the prospect that the party will lose control of at least the House of Representatives.
Recent electoral history shows that the party in the White House has often lost ground in the midterm elections. This was the case in 2010 and 2018 for example. Currently, the Democrats have very thin majorities in the Senate and the House.
Relations between Musk and the Democrats had been good. In 2010, the electric-vehicle manufacturer received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy, which was crucial support for a startup at the time.
Tesla at the time was an upstart in an automotive sector that had been devastated by the financial crisis and witnessed the bankruptcies of GM (GM) - Get General Motors Company Report and Chrysler (STLA) - Get Stellantis N.V. Report. Tesla made its initial public offering in June of that year. (The company repaid the federal government loan in 2013.)
In April 2010, President Barack Obama visited Musk and toured SpaceX's launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during a trip to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. In April 2016 Obama was also first to applaud SpaceX's rocket landing success at sea.
"Congrats SpaceX on landing a rocket at sea. It's because of innovators like you & NASA that America continues to lead in space exploration."
Musk immediately thanked him.
"@POTUS Thanks on behalf of an amazing team at SpaceX!"
Musk's divorce from the Democrats comes at a time when several government agencies are investigating Tesla.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Autopilot, Tesla's driver-assistance system. The company has promised that by the end of the year its vehicles will be fully able to drive themselves.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently issued a subpoena to Tesla and Musk regarding a 2018 settlement over the CEO's tweet saying he was going to take the carmaker private.
The FTC is examining Musk's Twitter bid for antitrust issues, while the Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing SpaceX's plans to launch its new Starship rocket from Boca Chica, Texas.