WASHINGTON — Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter has led to the exit of some users, especially those who are liberal leaning, but Minnesota’s Democratic lawmakers are not among that exodus, at least not yet.
Musk critics fear the popular social platform which has allowed members of Congress an easy and cost-free way to connect with constituents will become a Wild West with little monitoring of disinformation and dangerous and hateful speech. But many who are concerned about Twitter’s new ownership are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I have been concerned to see some of the recent comments made by Elon Musk,” said Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd, “I will wait to evaluate next steps until I see how Twitter evolves under this new leadership.”
Musk has decried the permanent banning of users on Twitter and said he would restore former President Donald Trump’s account, which was subject to a ban after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Anxiety over his stewardship on the social media platform increased recently when Musk tweeted a false story about the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nany Pelosi. Musk has deleted the tweet, but not before it resonated throughout the conservative political world.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has been one of the most vocal critics of Musk’s acquisition. Asked Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press whether she trusts Musk, Klobuchar replied “No, I do not.” She said she wanted more content moderation and less immunity for Twitter and other social networks that amplify hate speech.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., told MinnPost “while I currently plan to remain on Twitter, I do have some concerns about Elon Musk’s acquisition and his initial actions as owner of Twitter.”
“I am particularly worried about the proliferation of right-wing conspiracies that fuel political violence like the attack on Paul Pelosi,” Smith said. “I plan to keep a careful eye on the evolution of Twitter under his leadership and will continue to assess the platform.”
Meanwhile, conservatives who said Twitter had censored their speech, cheered Musk’s $44 billion buyout.
“Elon Musk has indicated he will oppose Big Tech censorship and support free speech,” tweeted Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. “That’s something all freedom-loving people can get behind.”
It’s not clear, however, that all guardrails will be lifted on the popular site.
Faced with losing subscribers and advertisers, Musk this week met with civil rights leaders and told them he would not reinstate banned accounts until it has a clear process for doing so. That means that Trump and other suspended users would not have their Twitter access restored before next week’s midterm elections.
Other Minnesota lawmakers reached about Twitter’s new owner, including Reps. Tom Emmer, R-6th, and Pete Stauber, R-8th, said they planned to stay on Twitter.
Musk also made many subscribers unhappy by this week proposing an $8-per-month fee for users who want to keep their blue “verified” checkmark.
Those that paid the fee would not only be able to keep their blue checkmark, but also have priority in search, be exposed to fewer ads, and have the ability to post long-form video, Musk said in various tweets.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd, responded to Tusk’s plan with his own tweet.
“I’ll happily pay $8 per month if @elonmusk would provide Starlink access to the most courageous women and girls in Iran who are on the verge of toppling one of the worlds’ most repressive regimes,” Phillips said.
Starlink is the satellite internet arm of Musk’s SpaceX venture.
Emmer faces vote on Nov. 8 and if re-elected, possibly again on Nov. 15
It seems like Emmer does not need a massive following on Twitter to win his race to be the No.3 guy in the House Republican leadership in the next Congress.
If Republicans take the House Emmer is seeking the position of House majority whip and Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., is campaigning and tallying up support for Emmer in the GOP’s House caucus.
“Tom has a commendable lead in the field,” Reschenthaler said.
Now head of the National Republican Campaign Committee, Emmer has been working to flip enough seats – at least five – to put his party in control of the House, leaving the job of campaigning for a leadership position to Reschenthaler and other allies. Emmer’s rivals for the whip job include Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., who’s currently deputy whip and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the head of the Republican Study Committee. Leadership elections are conducted by secret ballot and it’s difficult to tell if someone who pledges his or her support for a candidate follows through, so Reschenthaler has a tough task.
If the GOP wins controls of the House, Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is favored to become Speaker and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is expected to become House Majority Leader. House Republicans have scheduled their leadership elections on Nov. 15, while the party’s freshmen members are undergoing orientation in Washington, D.C.
We won’t know how large that GOP freshman class will be until the votes are counted in next week’s general election. But those GOP freshmen will be able to vote in the leadership races and are breaking for Emmer, Reschenthaler said.
“He has even more strength with the likely incoming freshmen,” the Pennsylvania Republican said.
Reschenthaler also said Emmer “crosses over ideological divisions, appealing to House Republicans “from the most conservative to the most moderate.” And he said that if the contest goes to a second ballot because no one in the whip race received 50% or more of the votes, then it would be “game over” for Emmer’s rivals.
Democrats have not announced when they will hold their leadership elections.
‘Democracy is at risk’
President Joe Biden’s closing argument as the nation heads to the polls next Tuesday was that the country’s democracy is dangerously close to collapse.
“In our bones we know democracy is at risk,” the president said in a speech at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.
The president also said voters in the midterm will face a unique challenge, “whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy.”
Those threats to democracy include attempts to overturn the last presidential election, harassment of voting officials and volunteers and efforts to intimidate voters.
Yet most polls show the argument does not resonate with voters as much as concerns about the economy. So Democrats running in Minnesota have largely focused their attention elsewhere, although they sometimes accuse GOP opponents, rightly or wrongly, of being “election deniers.”
Democrats in the state and elsewhere are battling headwinds and have fended off attacks by the GOP that Democrats are responsible for inflation and soft on crime, while going on the offensive on the abortion issue and, most recently, what they say are Republican threats to popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
In Minnesota, Democrats are making a final push to get out the vote with the help of Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison. The effort will start with a DFL rally at the state capitol with state and federal Democratic officeholders, including Sens. Klobuchar and Smith, Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Then the DLF get-out-the vote bus tour will travel to south Minnesota, to towns in the 1st Congressional District – Mankato, Rochester, Winona and Austin – where Rep. Brad Finstad, a Republican is fending off a challenge from Democrat Jeff Ettinger.
The effort to energize the Democratic base also plans to stop in the 2nd Congressional District, where Craig is battling Republican Tyler Kistner in a race that’s considered a tossup. Stops on the bus tour include Eagan, Shakopee and Burnsville.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Republicans kicked off their get-out-the vote effort last weekend with a Greater Minnesota Fly-Around Tour with GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen of Chaska, lieutenant governor candidate Matt Birk, Minnesota GOP Chairman David Hann and other Republican officials. this weekend the GOP officials will tour by bus.
With a barrage of negative political ads on television, and army of candidate door knocking and high-profile events by the state’s top political leaders, voters will find it very hard to avoid constant reminders that a key midterm election is Tuesday.