Why Does Silicon Valley Like Democrats So Much?

 

shutterstock_176341079Over at TechCrunch, Greg Ferenstein — after pointing out how little interest Silicon Valley has had in the 2016 GOP presidential candidates — offers his theory as to why American tech leans left:

I think the more likely explanation is that the nation’s new industrial titans are pro-government. Google, Facebook, and most Internet titans are fueled by government projects: the Internet began in a defense department lab, public universities educate a skilled workforce and environmental policies benefit high tech green industries. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, is a fan of Obamacare, which helps his entrepreneurial drivers keep their health insurance as they transition between jobs.

In other words, the Democratic party is good for emerging industries and billionaires recognize it. Donald Trump is a candidate known to go after major figures in tech; a trend that may further the Democrats friendship with new industrial titans. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve argued that the modern emerging workforce of Silicon Valley, urbanized professionals, and “gig economy” laborers all represent an entirely new political demographic redefining the Democratic party to be more about education, research and entrepreneurship, and less about regulations and labor unions.

I actually have a podcast scheduled with Ferenstein to explore these issues. A few initial observations:

1) I wonder: to what degree do social/cultural issues play a role in this?

2) The forward-looking analysis assumes stasis. But what if the Dems became more Bernie-like — including an embrace of very high tax rates, single-payer healthcare? (Sanders, like Trump, also seems afflicted with terrible case of economic nostalgia for 1960s America.) And what if the next iteration of the GOP recognizes the need for smart public investment and a modernized safety net? Certainly the tech execs I have talked to seem very concerned about regulation, an area that should be a GOP strength.

3) Will unionized teachers — a pretty important factor in Democratic politics — be down with disruptive innovation in education?

A few thoughts, more to come…

There are 20 comments.

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  1. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Generalizing from the folks I’ve known or observed in that field, they are also big on signaling their “superior moral virtue” as being “non-judgmental” as to human behavior, so naturally they like the “anything goes” Democrat party.

    • #1
  2. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    Fritz:Generalizing from the folks I’ve known or observed in that field, they are also big on signaling their “superior moral virtue” as being “non-judgmental” as to human behavior, so naturally they like the “anything goes” Democrat party.

    Many are the products of a thoroughly rotten education system, one that drills into students’ head the GOP is the party of old racist, homophobic and sexist white guys.

    Because these valley guys are cool and hip, they can’t be seen fraternizing with such a backward political party.

    • #2
  3. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph Eagar
    @JosephEagar

    Fritz:Generalizing from the folks I’ve known or observed in that field, they are also big on signaling their “superior moral virtue” as being “non-judgmental” as to human behavior, so naturally they like the “anything goes” Democrat party.

    I think this is primary factor.  I only lived in Silicon Valley for year, but my experience was that it’s the most class-stratified culture I have ever been in.

    I thought it was something of an open secret that the upper middle class votes Democrat in order to reinforce their own social status.   This is as true for tech workers as anyone else.

    Let the Dems have ’em.  The Democrats have moved from being a working class party to the party of smug professionals.  Do we really want such whiny petty people in our party, who think average people are evil (literally! I’m not exaggerating) and are drunk on their own supposed moral virtue?

    • #3
  4. Keith SF Inactive
    Keith SF
    @KeithSF

    livingthehighlife: Many are the products of a thoroughly rotten education system, one that drills into students’ head the GOP is the party of old racist, homophobic and sexist white guys.

    Agreed; these are by-and-large highly educated people, often with advanced degrees. They have the typical political inclinations and prejudices one would expect as products of American higher education.

    • #4
  5. TeamAmerica Member
    TeamAmerica
    @TeamAmerica

    Eh, I think Prager’s analysis applies here. As Joanne Nosuchinsky has pointed out, they have rejected traditional religion with its Catholic or Jewish guilt, and have replaces it with liberal guilt. It’s an easy way to feel good about yourself by paying lip service to liberal pieties. As Clinton, Anna Wintour, and Letterman demonstrate, it’s a way to excuse reprehensible behavior by taking lefty stances. Also, of course, there is ‘virtue signaling.’

    • #5
  6. Don Tillman Member
    Don Tillman
    @DonTillman

    James Pethokoukis:I actually have a podcast scheduled with Ferenstein to explore these issues. A few initial observations:

    Can I recommend talking to some folks in Silicon Valley first?  I’m very easy to get hold of.

    • #6
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    The Democrats have what the tech giants want, the power of the regulatory state.

    They need the state to either grant them permission, strong arm others, or crush rivals.

    Their wish lists include wireless communications/internet (FCC), driverless cars (DOT), mergers/acquisitions (DOJ), immigration (DOJ/State), drone delivery (FAA),  trademarks/patents (Commerce) and the military. Throw in a little help (i.e., money) from Energy and Treasury (especially the IRS) and there’s hardly a government department that isn’t scratching their backs or vice versa.

    • #7
  8. Lazy_Millennial Inactive
    Lazy_Millennial
    @LazyMillennial

    All good points so far. I’ll add that some of them are just paying for protection. Gotta embrace diversity, support the environment, pull out of NC, etc. Don’t wanna get on the wrong side of CA politicians and be targeted for a shakedown.

    • #8
  9. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    James Pethokoukis:1) I wonder: to what degree do social/cultural issues play a role in this?

    That seems to be everything.  Peter Thiel has his libertarian political sense and wisely but shockingly promotes investing in monopolies for personal gain.  Larry Ellison donated money to Marco Rubio.  Are there any other non-Democrats out there?  Speak up “silently” and you get the Brendan Eich treatment and get burned at the stake.

    Imagine Silicone Valley’s reaction to a candidate like Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum?

    They seem to be globalists who benefit from American borders, nationalism, and a lack of Islam fanaticism.

    • #9
  10. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Joseph Eagar:

    Let the Dems have ’em. The Democrats have moved from being a working class party to the party of smug professionals. Do we really want such whiny petty people in our party, who think average people are evil (literally! I’m not exaggerating) and are drunk on their own supposed moral virtue?

    Hmm…

    You’re as guilty of painting with a broad brush as you claim they are.  I have a feeling that the now retired Bill Gates isn’t that bad, while Mark Zuckerberg is.  Probably Steve Jobs had more to do with the present culture at Silicon Valley than anyone.

    But I think a big part of why they act the way they do is there are fewer older workers for them to associate with (age discrimination is openly celebrated).  The result is that there is hardly any brake on their juvenile behavior.

    Still, these are capable people.  We could use their brains on our side.  Some will come over as they get older, and get aged out of their jobs at forty-five.  Others will become socialists like Steve Wozniak.

    • #10
  11. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Al Sparks:But I think a big part of why they act the way they do is there are fewer older workers for them to associate with (age discrimination is openly celebrated). The result is that there is hardly any brake on their juvenile behavior.

    And by the way, that’s a big answer to James’s question.  The young always tend towards progressivism.

    • #11
  12. Retail Lawyer Inactive
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    I’ve lived in Silicon Valley whole life, so it is all I know.  I would talk to Don Tillman for one man’s local perspective.  I think it is mostly culture and edginess.  Its really Hope and Change, that is what drives the business model.  On the bright side, the Democratic liberalism is very shallow, and everyone here is conservative about what they know best.  And I’m very skeptical that gig workers and urbanized professionals have any common interests with the Democratic Party, especially if they have children.  (Herein lies a Republican opportunity).  The tech CEOs are not representative of the population and have no following politically, everyone assumes they want what is best for their company at the expense of everything else.  So Palantir wants big government, it is their main customer. Uber wants Obamacare so it can feel OK about offloading the health expense problem.  Interestingly, Uber’s business strategy is the same as Obama’s governing strategy:  if the law is in the way and you can’t change it, just break it and see what happens – hope that it works out.

    On a related matter, I have often wondered why Silicon Valley has the most isolated, entrenched, poorly educated, and aggressively stupid Federal representatives to be found.

    • #12
  13. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Retail Lawyer:On the bright side, the Democratic liberalism is very shallow, and everyone here is conservative about what they know best. And I’m very skeptical that gig workers and urbanized professionals have any common interests with the Democratic Party, especially if they have children. (Herein lies a Republican opportunity). The tech CEOs are not representative of the population and have no following politically, everyone assumes they want what is best for their company at the expense of everything else.

    As an outsider looking in, I’d say that you’re correct that the tech CEO’s have little or no political following.  But the Republican Party is close to dead in California, and I don’t see Silicon Valley as any kind of Republican island.  I’m going by memory here, and I don’t know what percentage of Google employees make political donations but of those that do, 97% are to Democrats.

    And leaving aside Silicon Valley tech, there are plenty of upper middle class Democrats that have kids.

    • #13
  14. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Fritz:Generalizing from the folks I’ve known or observed in that field, they are also big on signaling their “superior moral virtue” as being “non-judgmental” as to human behavior, so naturally they like the “anything goes” Democrat party.

    I think if the REAL SOCIALISTS in the Democratic party get enough naked power in DC and start breaking their  Rice Bowl, they will suddenly discover they are not so down with it…

    • #14
  15. Dick from Brooklyn Thatcher
    Dick from Brooklyn
    @DickfromBrooklyn

    Don Tillman:

    James Pethokoukis:I actually have a podcast scheduled with Ferenstein to explore these issues. A few initial observations:

    Can I recommend talking to some folks in Silicon Valley first? I’m very easy to get hold of.

    I’m not living there physically, but have certainly been part of the culture for decades. Much of what has been said above strikes me as true. Your thoughts, Don?

    • #15
  16. Autistic License Thatcher
    Autistic License
    @AutisticLicense

    Young people like stuff, especially electronics and amusements.  So do we all.  But young people worry about the future to a degree that we never did.  It sounds like a good deal to them that gov’t would remove 90% of your income, and give you security of rent, healthcare, groceries, and then let you keep 10% for electronics and amusements.  Their idea of security involves planned-for unemployment.  Also, yes, virtue signaling is a thing.  It was always nerve-wracking to wonder if you were a good person, whether you were doing enough. Gov’t gives you the chance to get all of that out of the way by voting for more programs.  Then you can be as rude or narcissistic as you like, knowing that you already paid at the office.  Religion is troubling for them, because it implies a moral authority without a guarantee.

    • #16
  17. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    At the top executive level I see most of these people as control freaks.  They are innovative but within the confines of the world they want to construct. They believe in liberty as long as it conforms to their desires.  They are wealthy enough to do whatever they want but want to control the masses.  They are shallow in their historical perspective but savvy about the world they know and recognize that as long as those controlling the levers of government are “the right people” they can all accomplish great things together in shaping a new and more just society in conformance with their views.  This is Cook and Zuckerberg in a nutshell.

    Old style – “Buy my stuff

    Jimi Hendrix style – “So let me live my life the way I want to

    New style – “Buy my stuff and we need private-public partnerships to make sure you live your life the way I want you to

    • #17
  18. Look Away Inactive
    Look Away
    @LookAway

    As America moves toward the wealthy 10%, 10% government bureaucrat buffer, and 80% of whats left (have we not seen this before?) It is more apparent to me that Silicon Valley will be the “enabler” the top 20% will count on to keep the masses distracted and controlled: TV, movies, dope, video games, social media, gossip, blurring the lines between the sexes, monitoring behaviors, herding the masses into the cities, mandatory tracking chips in children for their own “safety”, gun confiscation.  Two Americas.

    • #18
  19. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Look Away: Two Americas.

    Wait a minute . . . I thought the Two Americas were John Edwards’ family and John Edwards’ other family.

    • #19
  20. Mikescapes Member
    Mikescapes
    @Mikescapes

    I take Uber in NYC fairly regularly and find that the drivers are a very unhappy lot. Uber exploits them. The drivers aren’t entreprenurial. Only independent agents so Uber isn’t obligated to pay any employment benefits. Maybe Uber is headquarted in Silicon Valley, but High Tech? Sure, the CEO likes Obamacare. Not because it allows drivers to transition, but because Uber happens to be an example of corporate greed.

    • #20

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