Musk-Trump partnership can inflate the Trumpian world

Their giant egos can wreck the bromance

Match made in Hell!” That’s how liberal European media described the “political bromance” between Donald Trump and Elon Musk, the erratic, outspoken billionaire. In ideology and in temperament, chaotic Trump and quixotic Musk have common traits. Both despise wokeism, feminism, and LGBTQ activism. They have a penchant for conspiracy theories. Both are scrappy, provocative, politically incorrect and unpredictable with outsized egos. Commentator Christina Pletten noted, “This can become a dangerous alliance in so many ways, where money, power, propaganda and conspiracy theories meet in a nasty mix.”

Tesla founder turned rightwing culture warrior, Musk has been turning his Twitter-turned-X into a swamp for far-right conspiracies. Biden trails in polls but commands a campaign treasure chest. Trump brags big, but his finances are precarious, with his campaign war chest haemorrhaging due to legal fees and penalties. Worth $197 billion, Musk is money.

The New York Times reports a “collaboration” with Musk helping Trump get re-elected. Musk asserts he will not donate money to Trump. It’s a business opportunity to leverage his flagging X by spreading right-wing rhetoric that reinforces Trump’s political arguments. Musk’s Twitter takeover has been fraught with high debt, falling value, fleeing users and advertisers. For Trump, the visibility provided by a revitalised X fetches eyeballs and saves huge election costs.

Illustration: Job P.K. Illustration: Job P.K.

Trump and Musk share ideology and contrarian tactics. American journalist Tim Higgins said, “Musk gains even more influence as he becomes more Trump-like.” Musk amplifies Trump’s message on immigration to his 175 million followers. Accusing Biden of treason, Musk echoed a right-wing conspiracy theory that the US administration is “importing” immigrants to “rig elections and wage terror bigger than 9/11”.

A Musk-Trump partnership can inflate the Trumpian world of fearmongering, disinformation and outright lies. But their giant egos can wreck the bromance. Trump wants Musk on his team. Musk wants Trump on his. Still, the alliance benefits both. Musk’s companies rely on federal subsidies and contracts. Musk is hostile to Democrats’ pro-labour, welfare oriented, ‘anti-subsidies for cash-rich business’ policies—massive federal subsidies to Musk’s Space X were cut. But until recently, Musk’s relationship with Trump was prickly. Musk said Trump was too old for reelection. Trump called Musk a “bullshit artist”, a “fawning” businessman desperate for government subsidies. “I could have said, ‘drop to your knees and beg,’ and he would have done it,” Trump mocked in his Truth Social platform.

Trump was not Musk’s first choice in this election. He had rooted for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who launched his presidential campaign with a live chat with Musk on X. It was marred by technical glitches. DeSantis’s campaign soon flopped and collapsed. Now Trump and Musk see their interests converging and Biden is the common enemy. “Their combined resources as powerful reactionary figures shouldn’t be underestimated,” said MSNBC editor Zeeshan Aleem. A Trump-Musk collaboration promises publicity, drama and fireworks.

Verbal pyrotechnics could certainly sizzle this dull sequel of two old men butting for the top job again. Bristling at sneers of his advancing age and endless replays of images of him stuttering and stumbling, Biden now aims for Trump’s “jugular”. “Sleepy Joe” transforms into “Jaunty Joe”. He tries hard to look, walk and talk young, vigorous and feisty. Biden reportedly told friends he thinks Trump is unstable, both intellectually and emotionally, and if Biden goads him mercilessly, Trump will explode—“go haywire in public”. The Democrats begin the campaign season by launching Operation “Trigger Trump”. Biden’s favourite Trump taunt: “Loser”. Trump taunts right back, calling Biden a “basket case”.

Pratap is an author and journalist.