Trump, Musk, Putin, and the power of spite

Three different people, same crappy emotion?

Trump has been an electoral liability for the Republican party for at least the last 3 elections, and possibly 4 (depending on what you think would have happened in 2016 without Trump).  So far, his power over MAGA voters and his spitefulness – his evident willingness to tear down Republicans who show disloyalty – has kept Republican elites largely in line. 

But some Republicans are beginning to argue that he is bad for the party and should not be the 2024 nominee.  The challenge for the party – and for DeSantis – is that Trump may well decide to take the party down with him if he does not win the 2024 nomination.  This could involve badmouthing the Republican nominee, or even mounting a third-party run.  Some polls show DeSantis with more support than Trump among Republican voters, but I suspect DeSantis is worried that Trump will sabotage his presidential campaign if he gets the nod.  I would not be surprised if DeSantis decides not to challenge Trump.

Next up, Elon Musk and Twitter.  Musk substantially overpaid for Twitter and it appears that bankruptcy is a real possibility.  It is well-known that companies on the edge of insolvency have an incentive to take imprudent risks.  Perhaps mass layoffs and big strategy changes will enable Musk to pull a rabbit out of a hat and avoid bankruptcy.  If he ends up destroying Twitter, that’s not his problem, because it was heading towards bankruptcy anyway.  But it’s hard to look at what he’s doing – especially the chaotic nature of the layoffs and the unpopular, erratic, thumb-in-your-eye policy changes – and not wonder if he is happy to burn Twitter down rather than turn the keys over to a new owner who can make a clean start and turn it into a successful company. Finally, consider the war in Ukraine.  Ukraine may well clear Russian troops from most or all of its territory.  If it succeeds and gets financial support to rebuild it may have a bright, democratic future.  But reaching a settlement will be difficult, and if Putin bears a grudge against Zelensky or believes the virulent anti-Ukraine rhetoric being spewed out by his state media lackeys it may be difficult to bring a close to hostilities.  A spiteful and defeated Putin might continue to shoot drones and missiles at Ukraine, which would make it difficult for Ukraine to begin its economic recovery.