Elon Musk's Conservatism
He was won over not by Bill Buckley, but by the New Right.
As James Lionel Price once said: “Times change. People change.”
An interesting corollary to this truism is that occasionally the way in which people change can tell you something about how the times have changed. For instance: Elon Musk.
Over the course of the last year or two the (formerly) richest man in the world has gone though a political radicalization, progressing from a standard-issue rich liberal (obsessed with climate change; supported Barack Obama) to a standard-issue right-wing internet troll (obsessed with liberal media bias and COVID). Here is Elon’s latest contribution to The Discourse:
What does that even mean? Prosecute Fauci for what criminal offense? And if Anthony Fauci could be criminally prosecuted, then wouldn’t Donald Trump have similar exposure, since he is the one who actually implemented COVID policies at the federal level?
The answer, of course, is that Musk doesn’t mean anything. Just like he didn’t mean it when he said that Twitter removing Hunter Biden dick pics at the request of the Biden campaign was the clearest possible example of a First Amendment violation. These aren’t arguments. They’re poses. Virtue signaling to the in-group.
Watching Musk swap in-groups in real time has been instructive because it tells us about where liberalism and conservatism are these days.
When Musk was a liberal, he was a pretty normal-ish billionaire liberal. Flamboyant and egotistical, sure. But he more or less kept his politics on the side. He had his pet issue, climate change, which he rode hard. But his politics were mostly adjacent to his identity and his political tribe was more or less the liberal mainstream.
When Musk radicalized, it wasn’t because he started reading Bill Buckley and Whittaker Chambers. He hasn’t been paging through Commentary or National Review. His lodestars have not been Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru.
When we think of modern conservatism we think about a particular issue matrix that we could probably distill to three precepts: