Call a tow truck, the Muskmobile has broken down

The Tesla chief executive lost $12bn on Wednesday and his net worth has slid $49bn since he launched bid for Twitter in April

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives in Berlin in 2020. Many people are puzzled on what a Elon Musk takeover of Twitter would mean for the company and even whether he’ll go through with the deal. AP
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He reinvented the electric car, wants to make humankind an interplanetary species and has festooned Earth’s orbit with revolutionary new satellite technology.

There is no question that Elon Musk is exceedingly smart.

Yet, on Wednesday, the rocket scientist savant did something that — at least to me, a decidedly non-savant journalist — seems to me to be a head-scratcher: he declared war on a good chunk of his customer base.

Tesla’s pricey stocks have been crashing back to Earth for months now, having lost more than 40 per cent of their value since the start of the year.

The markets in general have been bleeding red for weeks, but Tesla’s slide has more than doubled the S&P 500’s 18 per cent collapse.

Amid this haemorrhaging, Mr Musk decided that now would be a great time to alienate the very consumer base that propped his company up through its troubled early days, namely liberals.

The Democrats, he said in a tweet, have become “the party of division and hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican”.

Setting aside, for the moment, the irony of the tweet, his declaration is hardly a surprise.

Mr Musk has for months vented a growing frustration with progressive politicians, cementing a sharp turn to the right he began by leaving California and establishing Tesla’s new home in Texas.

But the bitterness in his tweet and follow-up remarks signal a new level of fury for Mr Musk, who attacked “phoney social justice warriors” and the “leftist agenda”.

It’s not clear what prompted Mr Musk’s outburst. Tesla has closed its public relations department so there can be no asking.

Perhaps the immediate catalyst was the widely followed S&P 500 ESG Index ejecting Tesla over issues including claims of racial discrimination in its Fremont, California factory and crashes linked to its autopilot vehicles.

Mr Musk responded with angry tweets, including one saying "ESG is a scam".

But Mr Musk has also grown increasingly vocal about what he sees as a shadowy bias in Twitter’s algorithms to promote left-leaning views and silence conservatives.

It’s a claim that has been refuted by various studies. An internal Twitter study even found that it amplifies right-wing tweets more than it does liberal content.

Mr Musk has said he would invite former president Donald Trump (who pre-emptively declined) back to Twitter if his takeover of the platform is completed.

Mr Trump was banned for glorifying violence in the wake of the January 6 insurrection that saw his supporters trying to overturn the 2020 election results.

He lost $12 billion on Wednesday alone and his net worth has slid $49bn since he launched his bid for Twitter in April.

The market crash has made much of Mr Musk’s losses inevitable and he is still the world’s richest man.

Mr Musk’s electric dream for the world’s automobiles was driven in large part by a devoted base of early adopters, many of them in California and other liberal parts of America.

Following Wednesday’s tweet, the click-click of prospective Tesla buyers cancelling their orders en masse would surely have been audible to any Musk monkeys with hearing-enhanced brain implants.

For a party that has long opposed climate change legislation, it is hard to envision a sudden upswell of Republican support for the Cybertruck, whenever that eventually becomes available.

Instead of focusing on running Tesla and strengthening its fundamentals, Mr Musk has become increasingly erratic and enmeshed in America’s unending culture war, and his tweets do nothing to assuage the “division and hate” he is purportedly upset about.

The irony in his tweets is impossible to ignore. The Republican Party has gone from tepid criticism of the January 6 attack to a full-throated endorsement of Mr Trump’s claims the election was stolen.

Call these assertions “lies,” as The Associated Press does, or merely “baseless claims,” two thirds of Republicans still believe President Joe Biden was helped into office by voter fraud. That has weakened America.

Another irony: the same man who wants to seize control of Twitter over its perceived political bias is using the platform to declare his own political bias.

Time usually proves me wrong. But from where I sit now, it is hard to see an upside to Mr Musk’s tweets. It might be time for him to call a tow truck to help pull him – and Tesla – out of the ditch.

Published: May 19, 2022, 5:12 AM