Elon Musk is not a Trump enabler

Photo by Tyler Meuter

A lot has changed since Jan. 20, 2017.

A Muslim ban was placed on seven countries with no history of attacks in America. A law that helped save the economy after the 2008 stock market crash is being revoked, allowing Wall Street to resume the activities that caused the recession. America’s allies are distancing themselves.

More and more of President Donald Trump’s debatably unqualified and very conservative cabinet picks are being confirmed by slim margins.

For many Americans, the confirmations of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Stephen Bannon as chief strategist have tested their faith in those whom President Trump appoints to influential positions.

Uniquely in the executive branch, Trump’s economic advisory council is filled with successful business leaders, many of whom have previously expressed more moderate or liberal views.

However, several of the members have faced backlash for their association with the controversial president, including Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla.

Movements such as #deleteUber have generated significant social media activity and active boycotts.

Although the hashtag originally stemmed from legitimate gripes with how Uber mishandled the immigration ban by capitalizing on the JFK taxi embargo, the hashtag has
since warped into primarily berating Kalanick for being a member of Trump’s economic advisory council.

The increasing disapproval of the CEO both within and outside the company and protests at Uber headquarters have cumulated in Kalanick announcing that he had stepped down from his presidential advisory role.

Musk has also faced criticism for also being on the president’s council, with many people announcing the cancellations of their Tesla orders. Both have been widely accused of
“working for Trump.”

However, being on the advisory council does not mean that its members are enabling or working for the president. It simply suggests that they are advising him in areas in which he is not well versed. What the first 20 or so days have demonstrated thus far is that Trump strongly trusts and follows what his advisors say.

In defense of not stepping down from the board, Musk himself has noted that he is simply “trying to provide advice that helps take things in a more positive direction.”

The opposition and fury directed at Kalanick and Musk, while understandable, is misguided and misses what is an important opportunity for notable companies and competent businesspeople to hold an audience with the president.

It is vital now more than ever that Trump’s alt-right-oriented inner circle have a few moderating voices focused less on politics and more on science, technology and innovation.

Demanding that those voices step down not only robs the president — and by extension, the American people — of diverse perspectives in the White House but also nudges our national leadership farther from the center.

Filling an economic advisory board with prominent leaders from a wide range of businesses, from startups like Uber to established companies like Pepsi, shows the emphasis Trump places on the success of businesses in the U.S. Rather than admonishing Musk, we should encourage tech leaders to communicate with the president and express their pro-science, more moderate viewpoints.

Ride-sharing policies aside, it is fairly hypocritical for the progressive left to direct their anger solely at the mid-sized tech companies who  have expressed more liberal viewpoints than many of the other companies who are tied to the advisory council.

Although it is debatable that it is much more difficult to avoid  or threaten industry titans such as the Walt Disney Company, General Electric or Boeing, any movements against them have not gained much traction. Most of these companies have also been noticeably silent on the president’s recent policies.

On the other hand, both SpaceX and Uber are part of 130 tech companies who have signed the amici curiae (friends of the court) brief that argues that  Trump’s immigration order is unconstitutional.

Both Musk and Kalanick have also previously questioned Trump’s qualifications to serve as commander in chief and are good foils to older, more conservative companies. Musk has already made waves by requesting that the travel ban and climate be put on the council’s meeting agenda to be discussed first and foremost.

If the past election cycle has taught the American people anything, the walls of our echo chambers have been built too high, and we are no longer listening to opposing views. We are so sealed off that contradicting viewpoints are
completely unfathomable.

Activists should not be berating those who are actively reaching across the aisle by calling them enablers but rather encouraging those with more opposing views to advise
the president.

As Musk tweeted, “how could having only extremists advise him possibly be good?”