It has been a bountiful week on the Schadenfreude front, with new records being set for deriving pleasure from the pain of others. In this case, the pain is being suffered by a couple of rich boys who keep figuring out new and inventive ways to look like first-class tools in front of the whole world. Their names, in alphabetical order:
Musk, Elon; and
Trump, Donald J.
Before we get to them, let us take time out to make the obligatory mention of our duty as people:
It’s not nice to wish ill of your fellow humans. We should all rise above it. We should be better than that. But in this case, the chickens have come home to roost, so fuck these two.
With that out of the way….
Last week, the 2022 U.S. midterm elections surprised just about everyone by failing to produce the massive red Republican wave that I wrote about a couple weeks ago in another blog. Nationally, the vote was fairly evenly split between the Republicans and the Democrats, even though history says the Republicans should have steamrolled to a ginormous victory.
The Democrats won a lot of races they were expected to lose, and the Republicans mainly won only those they were expected to win. Although the Republicans will probably squeak by with a slight majority in the House, they fell well short of expectations, and could not retake the Senate. By any objective analysis, it was a good day for the Democrats and a bad one for the Republicans (and the pollsters, but that’s another story…).
I don’t even consider it a victory for Democrats as much as it’s a victory of sanity and moderation over the kind of lunacy and extremism that has engulfed American politics over the past six years. Even many Republicans seem worn out by the drama – nearly all of which was perpetuated by Trump, the former Republican president who got voted out of office in 2020 and has been acting like a big GD baby ever since.
He’s spent the last two years making up lies about a stolen election and raging against all those he perceives as having done him wrong (it’s a long list). In retribution, he hand-picked a bunch of horrible Republican candidates to run in the 2022 midterms, figuring they would win and validate him as King. Most got their clocks cleaned because even Republican voters didn’t like them.
Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans blame him for their party’s poor showing, and for being an overall drag on the party. As a candidate and president, he had a record of 2 wins and 6 losses when you count presidential electoral votes, popular votes, and House and Senate elections. This year his hand-picked roster of toadies and sycophants performed equally dismally.
Trump’s old pals at the right-wing New York Post had this to say about him:
Word has it Trump had another of his famous temper tantrums after the results came in. In typical fashion, he quickly shifted blame to everyone else in the world and tried to put a brave face on things by insulting people, threatening them, lying, and feeding fever-brained conspiracy theories. He’s expected to make a major announcement this week, presumably to make another run at the White House in 2024 and drive his party even further over the cliff.
But make no mistake: It was a very bad week for this shallow, thin-skinned putz – and much of the world cheered.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s first weeks as Emperor of Twitter have been a comedy of errors, miscalculation, incompetence, chaos, misplaced arrogance, and all-around buffoonery. After closing his buyout of the social media platform in late October, he stormed in like Attila the Hun and went about firing executives and initiating mass layoffs by email, trying to put his Invincible Elon stamp on Twitter.
It did not go well.
Musk might have single-handedly destroyed the Twitter brand in a matter of days by making one colossally stupid move after another. He even borrowed from the Trump playbook by suggesting he could take the company into bankruptcy in order to “save” it.
As a recent analysis from The New York Times noted:
“Within days of taking over he capriciously laid off about half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees — and then immediately began trying to hire some indispensable workers back. He promised advertisers that he valued their business and said he worried about social media spreading partisan hate and divisiveness — then posted a hateful and divisive conspiracy theory and threatened to ‘thermonuclear name & shame’ advertisers who ran for the hills.
“Before Thursday’s chaos, Musk’s confusion seemed to have reached an absurdist peak on Wednesday morning, when Twitter began rolling out a new set of verification badges to large brands, media organizations and some high-profile individual Twitter users. Within hours, Musk announced that he’d killed the rollout. It was maybe the most ill-advised, short-lived major product launch since Amazon tried to make a phone.”
A separate article from The Guardian said: “Elon Musk has unleashed chaos at Twitter in the few short weeks since he took the helm of the company, and experts say lawsuits, regulatory intervention and ultimate financial collapse could be on the horizon.”
Musk later went to Twitter himself to say that the “economic picture ahead is dire” for his shiny new toy. He also said Twitter “will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”
The first dumb thing he did at Twitter was buy it in the first place, but never mind. Maybe he’ll turn it around in the months and years ahead. Or, maybe he’ll keep running it further into the ground.
For now, Musk is stumbling around like a drunk in a hall of mirrors – and much of the world is cheering.
Do you know what people like Musk and Trump have in common? They were born rich, got richer as adults, and decided it was their own genius that turned them rich, rather than the pile of cash they were born into. You’d think they would have the self-awareness to understand that turning a small fortune into a large fortune is the easiest thing in the world. You could park all that money in a high-yield savings account and get a whole lot richer off the compounding interest alone.
But no, they keep pushing this narrative of mega-success through brains and cunning. They both act like they’re the smartest guy in the room, no matter how many times they foul things up.
Much of Musk’s wealth is built on Tesla’s stock price, and the company has performed well enough. But a good deal of that success is due to regulatory credits Tesla got for producing zero-emissions cars. It had first-mover advantage in the EV market but will face a lot of competition in coming years from the likes of Volkswagen and GM, so we’ll see how that plays out.
Meanwhile, Tesla investors are not happy with Musk’s Twitter distraction. Tesla has lost about half its market value since he first began pursuing Twitter in April – meaning a lot of his wealth has sunk as well.
To be fair, Musk has a certain genius for technology and entrepreneurship. I just wonder how far that genius would have taken him if he had been born into a low-income family and forced to attend public schools instead of pricey and exclusive prep schools. His own father bankrolled his first company.
Do you know a good first step toward becoming one of the world’s richest people? Having a Dad who will bankroll your first company.
I don’t think Trump has a genius for anything except lying and self-promotion. But he had his Daddy’s money to play with, went to expensive prep schools, and dated models. So, there’s that. Never mind the endless list of Trump products and companies that failed, the list of bankruptcies, the long list of lawsuits and criminal investigations involving his businesses.
I believe there is a window of opportunity for Musk to grow into an actual human being – if he starts right this second and keeps at it every minute for the rest of his life. I don’t ever see that happening with Trump. He was raised a self-centered asswipe, and he will be that very thing until the day he finally departs this mortal coil.
In both cases, whatever success they have was all but gifted to them. If either had shown an ounce of grace and humility, maybe it wouldn’t be so fun to watch them slip on the banana peel and do a face plant.
But they haven’t, and it is.
Note: The girl laughing image is one of the earlier sketches in my foray into drawing that began about a year ago. It’s raw and rudimentary and a 3rd grader could probably pull it off, but it gets the point across. The Fat Trump image is from Mad magazine. The Elon image, I don’t remember.