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Sensemaker: Trump 2.0

Sensemaker: Trump 2.0

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Avril Haines, US Director of National Intelligence, said China was “working hard” on plans for the military takeover of Taiwan.
  • The leader of Myanmar’s rebel civilian government said forces opposed to the junta that seized power last year now control half the country. 
  • Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known Palestinian journalist working for Al Jazeerah, was shot dead while covering an Israeli raid on Jenin on the West Bank.

Trump 2.0

Elon Musk says he will allow Trump back onto Twitter if his purchase of the platform goes through. Does this make it more or less likely that Trump will be the next president of the United States?

More

  • Trump had 88.9 million Twitter followers by the time he was “permanently” suspended following his apparent support for the Capitol insurrection in Washington on 6 January last year. Some Twitter users have deleted the app since Musk announced his move to buy it, but there’s no reason to suppose Trump’s follower numbers would be substantially lower once he was reinstated – and they could be higher.
  • He also has around 2 million followers on Truth Social, the right-leaning rival to Twitter (easily misunderstood as a re-elect Trump campaign app) that he founded in February. If he was back on Twitter, his Truth Social followers would be gravy.
  • As in 2016, his Twitter provocations would do double duty, unmediated as messages to followers, yet requiring mediation and thus amplification by the traditional media because of who he is. 

Less. There is nothing in this column. Musk will unquestionably have improved Trump’s chances of a return to the presidency if he succeeds in acquiring Twitter and if Trump decides to run. “It makes it more likely,” says Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “But ‘more likely’ certainly doesn’t mean that Trump is going to win. Trump-on-Twitter is just one factor among many, and a smallish one compared to the state of the economy in 2024.”

So…

Will Musk acquire Twitter? Probably. It’s not a done deal as Musk admitted in the FT interview yesterday in which he proffered the conditional Trump-Twitter reinstatement. But he has more than $7 billion pledged from co-investors, $12.5 billion arranged in bank loans and says he will come up with the rest of the agreed $44 billion sale price, presumably by selling Tesla stock. Twitter’s board has approved the deal. Shareholders have to as well, but at current prices they stand to gain nearly $5 a share from it, and US competition authorities are not expected to object.

Will Trump run? As things stand, more likely than not. In an interview with the WaPo last month he muttered briefly about his health and he’s been more concerned since last year with relitigating his 2020 defeat than tee-ing up 2024, but 

  • his people say he’s likely to run again if Biden does, and Biden thinks he’s the only Democrat out there who can beat Trump (again);
  • his Save America political action committee has $110 million in the bank, which is not a war chest per se but is more than the Republican and Democratic national committees have combined; and
  • there are plenty of potential non-Trump contenders for the nomination, including Mike Pence, Ted Cruz and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, but many have hinted they would step aside if Trump ran and Haley has said so explicitly.

One contender not inclined to back down despite Trump’s continuing dominance of his party is Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis. Trump claims to have created DeSantis’s political career with a single endorsement tweet in 2018. DeSantis’s Democratic gubernatorial rival Nikki Fried says one Trump tweet could destroy him too.

We’ll see. Meanwhile, as Sabato notes, there’s…

The economy. Inflation is at a 40-year high. Wage growth is lagging and a long tech-led bull run in equities is stalling. But much of the wealth created by that run has been widely distributed via a house price boom and retirement accounts. As the economist Dean Baker tells the NYT, “a huge number of people, maybe 40 million households, have been doing pretty well”. Whether they feel that way two years hence could do as much as Twitter to determine the future of the free world.

Musk said banning Trump was “a morally bad decision and foolish in the extreme”. As a science fiction fan who styles himself a free speech absolutist, he should remember: only a Sith deals in absolutes.


CAPITAL ECONOMY, BUSINESS AND FINANCE

Grindr growth
When Grindr – a dating app for gay, trans and bisexual men – launched in 2009 it was the pioneer in app-based dating. A full suite of apps is now available for the modern dater, but none has come close to Grindr for gay dating. By last year it had over 10.8 million monthly active users, who last December spent an average of 61 minutes a day on the app, with an increasing number paying for premium features. Now, the West Hollywood-based company is joining other – straight – dating services like Bumble and the Match group (which owns Tinder and Hinge) by going public. Grindr’s $2.1 billion valuation through a deal with the Singapore-based Tiga Acquisition Corp is more than triple the $608 million the app’s current owner, San Vicente Acquisition, paid for it two years ago. To note: privacy and security concerns mean the deal may require clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). See also: last week’s ThinkIn on making sense of dating apps


CULTURE soCIETY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING

Roman head
An antiques dealer shopping at a local second hand shop in Austin, Texas, bought a 2000 year-old Roman sculpture for $39.99. Laura Young, 43, saw the 52 lb marble bust in 2018 and sensed at once she’d stumbled on something special. After calls to Sotheby’s and Bonhams she established it had been acquired by King Ludwig I of Bavaria for a German replica of a Pompeii townhouse, and – probably – looted by an American serviceman, or sold to one, at the end of World War Two. Young has since struck a deal with the Bavarian government, which will pay her a finder’s fee and storage costs and return the bust to its pre-war home in Aschaffenburg. For now, it’s on display in the San Antonio Museum of Art. Its subject may be a son of Pompey the Great.


TECHNOLOGY AI, SCIENCE AND NEW THINGS

Micromobility and the last mile
Electric bikes and scooters are the future of personal urban mobility and last-mile delivery. Or at least, investors are getting behind them as if they are. Two examples from Techcrunch: Reby, a four year-old Spanish micomobility start-up, has been acquired by a Canadian private equity firm for $100 million, and GetHenry, a Berlin-based b2b supplier of e-bike fleets to delivery firms like JustEat, has raised $17.4 million in a seed funding round to expand across Europe. The sums aren’t huge but e-bikes and scooters aren’t that expensive. They are very quiet, though. As ever, look before crossing.


The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Chinese Covid
China’s Covid problem is huge and not going away. A new statistical model produced by Chinese and American researchers projects that were it to spread unchecked China’s current Omicron outbreak could infect 112 million people and cause 1.5 million deaths within two months. That would be nearly 1.5 million more deaths than in the entire pandemic so far, during which China has officially acknowledged only 5,198 fatalities. Even if this has been massaged down substantially, China’s death toll has been extraordinarily low compared with those of rich western countries thanks to a zero Covid strategy that the WHO now says is unsustainable. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, told reporters on Tuesday he didn’t think China would be able to continue to suppress the virus and said Beijing needed to shift its strategy. His remarks have since been removed from Chinese social media.


Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

Floating gas
Germany has been accused of dragging its feet over finding alternatives to Russian gas, but the foot-dragging may be over. Robert Habeck, the economy minister, says the government’s plan is to replace 70 per cent of gas imports from Russia with LNG from Qatar, the US and elsewhere within a year. Ordinarily that would require new land-based terminals for LNG tankers, and the German planning process for such things is notoriously slow. Instead Berlin is going to use floating terminals, aka boats. Word is they’ve been sourced from the Gulf and that Scholz sent ministers there to see what was available the moment Putin invaded Ukraine. Approval for four floating terminals off Germany’s Baltic coast will be sped up ten times faster than normal, Bloomberg reports, and they should be connected to the German grid within ten months. The residents of Mariupol may still ask what took so long.

Thanks for reading. Please share this around and tell us what we’ve missed. News tips and story ideas are welcome. Email them to sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Giles Whittell
@GWhittell

With additional reporting by Phoebe Davis.

Photographs Getty Images, San Antonio Museum of Art


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