A Short History Of Elon Musk And Donald Trump's Relationship—Could It Shape The 2024 Election?

Zinger Key Points
  • Trump tapped Musk as an advisor in 2017. Their relationship has since turned sour.
  • Musk has openly shared support for Ron DeSantis as a 2024 presidential candidate.

The relationship between former President Donald Trump and Elon Musk, one of the world’s wealthiest persons, is long and intricate, leading the pair from periods of a strategic alliance to harsh public bickering.

Two years ago, the probability of these two public figures owning competing social media platform — Truth Social and Twitter — would have sounded as unlikely as Trump’s political potential back in 2015.

With the confirmation of Trump’s presidential bid for the 2024 election, their relationship takes a new shape: one that has the ability to influence the economic and political landscape in the coming years.

Last month, Musk said that if Trump were to be indicted, he'll "be re-elected in a landslide victory.” Trump's indictment became a reality soon after.

Related: Elon Musk Bought Twitter In The Name Of Free Speech — But How Will He Wield His New Power?

Friends Or Foes?

Musk announced in the past that he would welcome Trump back to Twitter, after the former reality TV show star's account had been suspended, on account of his posts that were flagged for inciting violence before, during, and after the Jan. 6 atack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump was also kicked off Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta Platforms Inc. META

Trump’s Twitter reinstatement sprouted off Musk’s ideas around free speech, which became the basis for his acquisition of the social media platform in late October.

Although his Twitter profile was revived in early 2023, Trump has stated he will not continue to use it, and no new posts have appeared on the former president’s handle since Jan. 8, 2021. His Facebook and Instagram were also reinstated.

Trump said he’ll be addressing his following via Truth Social, the social media company he founded in October 2021.

Pew Research Center shows that only 27% of U.S. adults say they have heard of Truth Social, and only 2% use the site for news, per an October review of the platform.

Trump’s 2024 presidential run faces a bumpy road. The former president’s unwillingness to use Twitter may hurt his ability to connect with followers. He is also not using Instagram, though there are posts on Facebook.

Musk, meanwhile, supports Florida Gov. Ron Desantis in a 2024 presidential run. The magnate's political position has increasingly leaned towards the Republican party in recent years, having said that he voted for the GOP for the first time in 2022.

But after the GOP's lackluster performance during the midterm election, Trump’s presidency not only hangs on his ability to win the party’s primaries but also on the party’s ability to connect with voters and win the election.

Trump And Musk's Love-Hate Relationship

Trump, on Truth Social, recently endorsed the “termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

Musk seemingly clapped back, pinning a Tweet in his Twitter profile in defense of the U.S. Constitution.

But their public relationship dates back to 2016. In the November before the election that made Trump president, Musk told CNBC that Trump was “not the right guy” for the presidency. Instead, he expressed his support for Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton, citing her advocacy for climate action.

But after Trump became president, Musk joined the Presidential Advisory Forum. His role there was to advise, but not necessarily support, Trump’s political ideas. For example, Musk objected to the "executive order on immigration” and raised a banner for sustainable energy use, which Trump often derided.

Musk's stint as a White House advisor lasted less than six months. The business magnate cut ties with the Trump administration after the former president pulled out of the Paris Agreement on climate change in June 2017.

Their public relationship went silent for a few years, until in 2020, when Trump called Musk "one of our great geniuses" in a CNBC interview. He later expressed support for Musk’s claim to re-open California’s Tesla factory, which was forced to shut down due to COVID-related restrictions.

The businessmen's views on COVID restrictions appeared to form a common ground for their outspoken public personas. But this year, their relationship went sour again.

Musk reinstated his rejection of Trump as president in July 2022, stating that “it's time for Trump to hang up his hat and sail into the sunset.”

Trump replied in July on a Truth Social post, lashing out against Musk and his companies saying Musk would be worthless without state subsidies “whether it's electric cars that don't drive long enough, driverless cars that crash, or rocketships to nowhere.”

What Lies Ahead

A full-on alliance between the two seems unlikely in the upcoming future. However, their political notions could intersect at specific points, which may serve as an opportunity to form temporary alliances in an effort to shift public opinion around certain topics including free speech, state interventions on the economy, and U.S.-China relations.

Musk’s Twitter odyssey can be seen as an attempt to gain influence and become more involved in the political agenda, beyond the subsection of topics where he remained focused for most of his career: sustainability, energy, space exploration, and transportation.

The future of the relationship between the two men can have vast consequences for the success of their individual endeavors and is worth keeping an eye on.

Image by Benzinga with photos from Wikimedia Commons.

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