Meatball in the machine: Ron DeSantis learns a tough lesson about depending on Elon Musk’s Twitter

Ron DeSantis saw the official launch of his campaign to be the 2024 GOP nominee for president begin the way it will invariably end: an abject but hilarious failure. It was announced with great fanfare on Tuesday that the Florida governor, who is desperate for some buzz as his once-promising campaign has faltered before it even began, would ditch the traditional announcement strategy complete with adoring supporters gathered for a big speech in favor of a Twitter Spaces conversation with Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla-turned-alt-right troll. During the actual event Wednesday night, much was made about the “historic” nature of the announcement — right before it crashed. And then crashed again. And then again. 

It was hard to picture what was more darkly funny: How the notoriously ill-tempered DeSantis was reacting, as Musk’s failures stepped all over his big moment, or how quickly Donald Trump would race to Truth Social to gloat in his usual illiterate style about it. 

Of course, this was all very predictable. Anyone who has been following the news is well aware that Musk has spent the last year exposing the lie that was his “genius” reputation. When he’s not blowing up rockets, he’s blowing up Twitter, the social media company he dramatically overpaid for. That this would completely fall apart before DeSantis even had a chance to speak was overdetermined. 

But of course, DeSantis overlooked Musk’s now-infamous incompetence for one single reason: Meatball Ron has a mind totally pickled by MAGA propaganda.

Even before it turned into a fiasco, “Twitter Spaces interview with Twitter CEO Elon Musk” was a weird idea. DeSantis only went there because Musk has become a MAGA hero. And it’s not because Musk is talented or smart, but because MAGA is desperate for any validation. If it comes in the form of a charmless dork out of revenge for all the cool kids who aren’t impressed by his money, so be it. To compound the strangeness, DeSantis and Musk were joined by venture capitalist David Sacks, an authoritarian nitwit whose definition of “woke” is so expansive that he assigns the insult to those who disapprove of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 

During the actual event Wednesday night, much was made about the “historic” nature of the announcement — right before it crashed. And then crashed again. And then again. 

We did get to hear Sacks repeatedly open up the event by raving about Musk’s fictional devotion to “free speech,” an especially trollish choice when the candidate he’s introducing is mostly famous for being an enthusiastic book-banner. It definitely set the tone: This would be as reality-based as any of the conspiracy theories Musks feverishly hypes. 

It’s not hard to see how Musk talked DeSantis into this trainwreck. The two have so much in common: A lack of charisma. A belief that they deserve to be worshipped like gods, coupled with a wet cat-style petulance when people decline to kneel before them. Plus, both clearly overestimate the number of people still bitter about being that one debate team kid who didn’t get to make up with anyone on the bus. Musk is learning the hard way that such a small population cannot make his “Twitter Blue” subscription program profitable. DeSantis is going to learn that they certainly aren’t numerous enough to win a primary, much less a general election. 

Trump may be a moron, but he knew well enough that he needed more than the Musk fanboy crowd to win. His coalition is what you need to win a GOP primary: overgrown frat boys, sanctimonious church ladies, illiterate racists, and a seemingly endless sea of elderly white suburbanites who assume “cancel culture” must be why their kids don’t visit. DeSantis was the one who empowered the woman who forced a Miami school to yank “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman. But you can bet that book-banner is still going to vote for Trump. 

If the goal was indeed to convince Trump that Twitter is a happening place where he needs to be, then this went about as well as a Tesla catching fire on the freeway. 

DeSantis, of course, fears speaking Trump’s name in public, even on those occasions when he can speak into a functioning amplifying technology. But Trump’s presence was almost as keenly felt as the myriad tech failures. Despite press chatter about Musk “aligning” himself with DeSantis, I don’t really think this happened because Musk is trying to chain himself to DeSantis. On the contrary, this seems like just the latest maneuver in Musk’s endless, pathetic campaign to get Trump’s attention — and get Trump back onto Twitter. Musk has also been claiming support for Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who announced his presidential run earlier this week. It’s all very much like someone who, desperate to get their crush’s attention, tries flirting with other people. 

Musk didn’t even really hide it. The event with DeSantis was barely over before Musk was back to unsubtly begging Trump to return to Twitter:

If the goal was indeed to convince Trump that Twitter is a happening place where he needs to be, then this went about as well as a Tesla catching fire on the freeway. 

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As Heather “Digby” Parton noted on Wednesday morning, DeSantis appeared to have snubbed Fox News in order to give this big ol’ news event to Twitter. This is doubly insulting since the Fox News-fired host Tucker Carlson has made hay out of starting a show on Twitter, which we can all hope goes as well as DeSantis’s campaign launch did. 

Twitter did eventually get the thing running, but after losing much, if not most, of the potential audience. Those who stuck around got to hear how DeSantis is the great savior of “freedom” because he let COVID-19 run rampant over his state. People who actually read history, which used to be legal in Florida, would question whether Gov. Book Banner has read the Constitution he loves to drone at length about. 

Or maybe I’ve got this all wrong and Musk really is a genius. Since DeSantis first got press hype about his presidential prospects, those of us unfortunate enough to have heard him speak were skeptical. Trump is fingernails-on-chalkboard annoying, sure, but DeSantis is somehow worse. He’s even whinier than Trump and has a tendency to react to human contact like most people do to dog poop. Keeping DeSantis’ voice out of people’s ears was probably the best gift Musk could have ever given the Great Meatball Hope. 


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